We received great news in the last couple of weeks, as two pharmaceutical companies from those that President Donald Trump involved in Operation Warp Speed to develop a COVID-19 vaccine now have vaccines ready to be delivered to the American people in record time. With two companies announcing an effective rate in the upper 90s, the country is on the brink of gaining approval and having 40 million doses ready to disperse. It was a brilliant move to enlist private industry in the solution instead of hoping some governmental bureaucracy would eventually provide the vaccine. Thanks be to God for quick acting, stream-lining leadership and for scientists and chemists who can be used by God to work miracles.
As I thought of how amazing this feat is, and how grateful we all should be, my mind went to an encounter that Jesus had while passing from Jerusalem, through Samaria, toward Galilee. The story is found in Luke 17:11-19. As Jesus entered a certain Samaritan village, 10 leprous men stood at a distance, crying out to Jesus saying: “Jesus! Master! Have mercy on us!” (vs. 13). Interestingly, social distancing is not a new thing! They stood at a distance, which was a precaution in their day, to prevent transmission of the disease. Jesus told them to go to the priest for verification that they had been healed (vs. 14).
The Bible says in Luke 17:14c (NASB): “And it came about that as they were going, they were cleansed.” This means that by faith, they obeyed what Jesus told them to do, and as they obeyed in faith, they experienced healing from a disease that was mostly incurable in that time, aside from God’s intervention.
Nine of the lepers continued on their journey, but one of the 10 turned around and returned to Jesus to express his gratitude. One hundred percent were healed by Jesus, but only one returned to Jesus to give thanks. Ninety percent took their healing for granted. One was so grateful that he returned and fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving thanks. And the grateful person was a Samaritan (see Lk. 17:16). There is a lot of irony in this event and statement. Samaritans were often treated as second-class people by the Jews, for they were of mixed ethnicity and were seen as religious competitors. The least likely person to give thanks to the Messiah of the Jews was a Samaritan. The implication is that the others healed were Jews.
Jesus responded to the man giving thanks, saying: “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine — where are they? Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18). The one who turned back to say thank you received a bonus. He experienced salvation of his whole being, not just physical healing (vs. 19).
It is the season for giving thanks. Some will not give thanks for a vaccine, because it was accomplished by another political party. Some will not give thanks to God because it was scientists who made the vaccine. Jesus’ question should challenge each of us, to rise above our pettiness and be grateful. It was not in underdeveloped countries that the vaccine was created. It was not created by only members of one party or the other.
Our world has been locked down, shut down and self-isolating for months, with no glimmer of hope on the horizon. Then, suddenly, God has provided a way forward, in months instead of years. Many of you have been living in fear for months. You have prayed for deliverance, for a cure. God has answered your prayers. If you can’t give thanks and credit where credit is due in this situation, then when will you ever be grateful?
Gratitude, or ingratitude, is a condition of the heart. Gratitude is good medicine, and brings healing and health to your whole person. Bitterness is a crippling, de-habilitating cancer that eats away at you like leprosy. I encourage you this Thanksgiving to not just be thankful, but become grateful. True gratefulness makes giving thanks easier and promotes healing.
Will you be in the 90 percent who, when blessed, take your healing for granted and fail to return and give thanks? Or will you be in the 10 percent who recognize the value of being healed, are grateful for being blessed and return to honor and give thanks to the healer?
May you have an outstandingly grateful and thankful Thanksgiving!
Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. He can be reached at email@example.com.