As the nation sits down to enjoy a hearty feast this Thanksgiving, millions of households will offer God a prayer of thanks – some brief, others verbose; some exclusively on the meal before them; others on additional blessings. And while giving thanks before a meal is certainly commendable, Scripture encourages us to pursue an even deeper expression of gratitude.
Recall a familiar anecdote from Jesus’ ministry. As he makes his way toward Jerusalem he encounters ten lepers who cry out from a distance, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:13, NLT). Notice their plea includes an acknowledgement of his lordship over their lives. Jesus is moved by compassion. But instead of healing them immediately He instructs them to show themselves to the priest. As they respond in faith to that directive and make their way to the priest they are healed.
Joy overwhelms the men. A sense of gratitude swells inside them. Had Jesus walked by at that moment I have no doubt they would have heaped praise on him and thanked him for his mercy. But he didn’t.
So nine of the men move forward with life, too busy to seek Christ a second time and express their gratitude in person. Their behavior doesn’t reflect an ungrateful spirit; they simply were unwilling to go out of their way to demonstrate their gratitude. Except for one. One healed leper returns and with a loud voice praises Jesus. Only one falls at Christ’s feet to humbly thank the Master. Only one recognizes that the appropriate response to Christ’s blessing is wholehearted worship.
We witness an even more profound act of gratitude early in Jesus’ ministry. On encountering a demon-possessed man in the region opposite Galilee, Jesus casts out a legion of demonic spirits that tormented the man day and night. Following his delivery from that painful bondage, the man begs Jesus for permission to follow him.
But Jesus declines the request, telling the man, “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you” (Luke 8:39a, NKJV). In response to this, the man “proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.” Having experienced God’s restoration the man recognizes that the only proper response was committing his life to Christ, either by joining him full-time in his ministry or by serving as a bold witness in his community.
We, too, have been delivered from our bondage as slaves to sin, and have been restored into a right relationship with God through Jesus. So this Thanksgiving let’s express our gratitude with more than just a brief prayer at dinner. Instead, let’s follow the example modeled by the two men Christ healed. Let’s worship God with humble enthusiasm and boldly proclaim his work in our lives to those around us and around the world.