When we usually think of being thankful, we think of the Thanksgiving holiday during the month of November. Nevertheless, Paul says of Christians, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess. 5:18). Therefore, while our minds (as well as the minds of many) are on this subject this month, let us examine the subject of “Thanksgiving.” In this article, we wish to turn our attention to Luke 17:11-19 and provide some positive points to ponder.
First, note the diseased men (Luke 17:11-12). It was due to their leprosy that they “stood afar off.” Why was that? Leprosy was a disease that eats the flesh, as well as the skeletal system underneath, with people losing their extremities, including their ears, noses, hands and/or feet. It is caused by insufficient diet and poor sanitary conditions; hence, note the irony in the term “unclean.” There are a few leper colonies today, in India, Crete, Japan, the Philippines, and even one in Louisiana and one in Hawaii. Today, the disease is controllable by medicine, which leads me to believe that there is a slight difference in leprosy today from the leprosy about which we read in the Bible. One may see what the Bible says about leprosy in Leviticus 11-15 (specifically Lev. 13- 14), which deals with impurities. The term “leprosy” is a general term that refers to a rotting disease, which may apply even to clothes or a house. The first reference to it is in Exodus 4:6 with Moses’ confirmation. Another famous example is in Second Kings 5 with Naaman and later with Gehazi. In fact, from the statement that King Jehoram made, it seemed as if only God could cure some forms of leprosy. Miriam became temporarily leprous in Numbers 12. There were four lepers of Samaria in Second Kings 7 who saw the effect of the destruction of the Syrian army. Not only that, King Uzziah became leprous because of his disobedience in Second Kings 15. In the New Testament, Jesus touched a leper in Matthew 8, who may later be Simon (Matt. 26:6). The Law of Moses dictated that a priest needed to check anything that even remotely looked as leprosy. One could not determine himself if he had leprosy, but he needed a priest to determine such. One who was leprous had to be shut out of the camp and did not have fellowship within. The many regulations to determine it leads one to confuse it with such modern things as psoriasis or eczema. Moreover, the washings needed to verify cleansing reminds us of what David said in Psalm 51:7: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Therefore, we see the connection between leprosy and sin.
Second, note their pitiful cry (17:13). They were not begging for alms—they were begging for mercy. They knew what was important! They knew who to ask—Jesus! Therefore, He is the source of mercy!
Third, note the miraculous healing (17:14). By such, we see how faith operates (cf. 17:19)—their cleansing occurred when they obeyed Jesus! In like manner, our cleansing from sin occurs when our faith complies with obedience. Only Jesus could cleanse/ heal them. I believe the command from Jesus is quite significant, considering Matthew 5:17: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” He could have triumphed over the Law of Moses, but rather, He fulfilled it (cf. Matt. 17:24-27). In other words, He understood the authority of the word of God (cf. Matt. 28:18).
Fourth, note the thankful Samaritan (17:15-16). The emphasis that Luke gives to this man being a Samaritan probably implies that the others were Jews—if not all, then some. Jesus often spoken of Gentiles, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” Thus, positive interaction with Samaritans prepared the soil for Philip in Acts 8!
Fifth, note the penetrating question, which is the title of this article (17:17). The sin of ingratitude is one of the ugliest of all sins (cf. Rom. 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:1-2). Moreover, the sin of ingratitude is a root sin of unfaithfulness. For example, would Adam and Eve have eaten of the forbidden fruit if they had really been grateful for the fruit from the tree of life? Would Judas have betrayed Jesus if he had been grateful as one of his closest companions? Would spouses who cheat on each other do so if they were truly grateful for their mates? The list of examples is almost endless!
How do we conquer ingratitude? First, put away selfishness (cf. Acts 20:35). Second, become a humble servant (cf. Matt. 20:26-27; Phil. 2:3-11). Third, count your many blessings! Jesus is our example of being thankful. He gave thanks for the bread and cup in the Passover Feast to represent the Lord’s Supper. Are we thankful for what Jesus has given us? May we never represent the unthankful nine!