A simple, but important rule in my sixth-grade classroom is students must say “thank you” anytime they receive something from me. It doesn’t matter if that something is homework, a reward, a present, or even a consequence, the expectation is always that I am thanked. Why? There are a few reasons. First, when you thank someone you acknowledge you are receiving something. Second, when you thank someone you acknowledge they are the giver of that something. Finally, when you thank someone you are showing that you have considered and accepted that something. Conversely, if I am not thanked, I must assume my students do not value the item, the giver, or its intention. Now, I am not naive enough to believe every eleven-year-old that says “thank you” has gone through this thought process. They may simply be well-mannered (or well-rehearsed). Maybe they know it is a rule and do it to avoid a negative consequence (which they would have to say “thank you” for anyways). They simply may do it because everyone else is doing it.
It can be hard to tell the authenticity of a thank you, but one pattern I have noticed is when someone is truly thankful, they will seek you out to tell you. Such was the case of a student of mine who delivered a letter to me on Teacher Appreciation Week last year. While the standard fare is a box of chocolates, a coffee mug, or a cleverly-punned present, she crafted an honest-to-goodness thank you card. There were no generic references to how awesome I was, how my class was the best, or how funny I am (which all are true), but she acknowledged specific words I had written in her yearbook at the close of the prior school year. She stated those simple words had changed her attitude, and she wanted to let me know that she greatly appreciated the time I took to consider them, write them, and live them. Favorite “appreciation” received to date.
In today’s reading, Luke 17, Jesus amid traveling from Galilee to Samaria is met by a lot of lepers. They each want the same thing: to be healed. Jesus obliges, and without much reference to how he did it, he simply states in verse 14, “Go and show yourself to the priest,” meaning they would now be known as the men who formerly had leprosy. They were cleansed, restored, no more peril or pain. They could now enter the city gate, walk the street, and be with all those they had left behind. In their excitement, nine men rush to show everyone how they had been healed. A single soul stops; he turns to praise God and give thanks to Jesus for this wonderful blessing beyond measure. Jesus is curious about the other nine, but tells the lone returner he was “healed because of his faith.”
So many times I have read this story and am left wondering, “Why did Jesus say this man was healed ‘because of his faith’? Were they not all healed?” The more I read over this passage, place it preceding Jesus’ next topic, the Kingdom of God, it begins to resonate what Jesus may be alluding to. While this thankful leper was cured in the very same way as the other nine, he alone received the lasting healing and life that comes through the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ. This thankful man’s healing was not physical transformation but an allegoric alignment of his spiritual salvation.
So where does this leave us? Often, we are the nine. We joyously jog back to the place we came – complacency or repetitive sin — because we know we are restored, we can enter the city gate, we can walk the streets, and we can be with those we have loved because Jesus has already paid the price for us to do so. We may thank him because we are well-rehearsed to do so in prayer. We may thank him because we fear what might happen if we don’t. We may thank him because that is what everyone else is doing; however, the minute everyone else turns and runs, we are there following them instead of running to our Lord and Savior. Take a moment to stop. STOP! Turn around. Run to Jesus (repent). Praise God (for your blessing)! Tell him what he has given to you, what He means to you, and how that is changing your life, not because that is something you do, but because that is something YOU do! When we offer thanks to him in this way, we will know the eternal healing that comes through a thankful faith.