The Virtue of Gratitude1
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem one day when he encountered ten men who had leprosy. It’s a terrible disease that causes painful sores all over the body as it eats away at skin and exposes nerves and blood vessels. They saw Jesus coming and called to him for healing.
He told them to go show themselves to the priests, and as they went, all ten of them were healed of their condition! Can you imagine having a hideous, deadly disease that gets better every step you take? It was amazing.
When one of the men realized what was happening he turned around, came back, threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. Jesus asked…
“Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”
– Luke 17:17 (NIV)
To me, this is one of the most amazing stories in the Bible. These men were desperate and full of despair. They had a life-long condition, and had to remain isolated from everyone. When anyone came near, the law required them to shout “unclean” to warn those people to stay away. All of that changed in an instant when Jesus spoke words of healing.
Yet, only one returned to say “thank you.” Only one.
I’m sure each of us wants to be “the one” that returns. But things like entitlement and always wanting more can blind us to all the good things God is doing for us. It’s like the kid with so many packages under the tree that he quickly opens one, and tosses it aside because he’s anxious to get to the next. Some call it the “attitude of bratitude.”
Because we’re so incredibly blessed, how can we be sure we don’t fall into this trap? What can we do to cultivate gratitude in our lives?
One thing is to step back and gain perspective.
People are complainers by nature. Babies cry, toddlers whine, teenagers scream, and adults criticize. If we aren’t careful as we mature, we change our method of communication but never change our perspective. For instance, instead of thinking “I’m sick of this car,” focus on how blessed you are to even have a vehicle…since only 5% of people in the world have one.
We should follow the example of the Apostle Paul. He wrote…
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
– Philippians 4:11 (NIV)
Another thing you can do is craft your expressions. Changing your attitude is great, but if you don’t take the time to skillfully express it you’re missing the point.
Would you buy a birthday present for someone you love, wrap it nicely and then not give it to them? Of course not! Yet that’s what you’re doing when you have an attitude of gratitude but fail to express it.
This is why I pray over meals. It’s a simple way to communicate my thankfulness to God several times each day. Of course, this is not original to me. I learned it from the story of Jesus when he fed over five thousand people:
Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.
– Matthew 14:19 (NIV)
So how about it? Will you be “the one?” Will you be that someone who says, “Thank you” to the person who holds the door open for you? Will you be the one who says, “Thanks, boss, for the raise!” God loves it when we do this! Let’s make him a proud Father!
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