Recently, I came across some new research studies on the science of gratitude. Can you believe there’s such a subject as “the science of gratitude?” It’s fascinating to learn how gratitude can enrich our lives with profound joy and happiness.
According to neuroscientists, gratitude can rewire your brain and induce serotonin and dopamine—the happiness hormones that promote health and healing. That’s an affirming discovery for us because, as Christians, our life is all about gratitude. The Bible says,
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes 5:18).
Notice it says it’s the “will of God” for us to give thanks in all circumstances. The Bible also tells us to rejoice always. How do you rejoice? I’ve discovered that you can rejoice when you count the blessings and give thanks. I’ve personally experienced that a grateful heart cannot be depressed. According to psychologists, the attitude of gratitude is the healthiest emotion.
When I think about gratitude, I can’t help but remember an inspiring joke about a widow living alone, praying every morning and night, and giving thanks to God. Seeing her devotion to God, her atheist neighbor feels annoyed and looks for an opportunity to convince her that God doesn’t exist.
One morning he hears the widow praying aloud, “Dear God, I thank you for your love and grace. Today, my refrigerator is empty, and I don’t have food to eat. But I trust that you will provide me with all my needs. Give me this day my daily bread. Lord, I know you are my shepherd, and I shall not want.”
The neighbor suddenly gets a bright idea to prove her wrong about her belief. So, he goes to the store, buys a bunch of groceries, and places them in front of her door. He rings the bell and goes hiding behind the corner.
Hearing the bell, the woman comes out and sees the bag of groceries and praises God with great joy, “Thank you, oh Lord, for your generosity! I know you are the provider and will give me what I need.”
“Wait a minute, Mrs. Jones,” the neighbor jumped out of the corner, saying, “I am the provider. Not God. I bought these groceries with my own money and placed them at your door. There is no such thing as God. So stop being superstitious!”
The lady appears even happier and excited and raises her hand in the sky, “Oh, what an amazing God. Your wisdom is wonderful. Not only do you give me my daily bread, but also make the devil pay for it!” (End of story.)
I love this joke because it depicts an invincible faith with a quick wit.
G. K. Chesterton—the great English writer and philosopher—left us with many of his profound thoughts on gratitude and quotable quotes. Here are some of them,
“The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank.” ~G. K. Chesterton
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~G. K. Chesterton
“The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things, and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.” ~G. K. Chesterton
“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” ~G. K. Chesterton (This one has something to do with our lesson today.)
“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing, and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” ~G. K. Chesterton
“When we were children, we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?” ~G. K. Chesterton
We live in a fallen world, and we all know life is difficult. But, if you can find reasons to be grateful, life can become a joy to live. Even though science today has proven that gratitude makes a big difference in our well-being, Jesus reveals gratitude has spiritual significance and is a path to salvation.
Do you know God has a soft spot? Our heavenly Father cannot resist our gratitude. One of my daughters knew how to express gratitude in her own way even before she could speak. She melted my heart each time she did that. In the same way, you can melt the heart of the heavenly Father with your gratitude.
Have you wondered how to express your faith? Most of the time, we think we express our faith by passively believing or trusting God, but according to Jesus, our attitude of gratitude shows our faith. God rewards grateful people. That’s why miracles happen when we express our sincere gratitude.
So, today, we will explore how Jesus teaches us to express gratitude and experience grace, not only for the well-being of this life but also for eternal salvation.
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson today is from the Gospel according to Luke 17:11-19. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11–19).
[This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]
On his final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus encountered a group of ten lepers on the outskirt of a village. It says,
As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, (Luke 17:12).
I wonder how many of you have seen lepers. Growing up in Burma, I have seen lepers begging on the roadsides or in the marketplaces. They looked pretty scary. Some of them had patches of pale skin. Some of them didn’t have fingers or toes. Some of them didn’t have a nose. Some of them didn’t have arms or legs. They looked disgusting and horrifying, especially for children to see.
Leprosy is a disease that destroys nerves. So, the lepers don’t feel pain. When they use their hand to turn something, they might exert too much force and break their fingers, hands, or even arms without feeling the pain. If they squeeze their nose forcefully, the nose could fall off without pain. That’s why they were often disfigured and looked pretty scary.
Leprosy spreads only through body fluids, but most people in ancient times didn’t know. So they kept them away from the community. They were also believed to be cursed or religiously uncleaned. Until recently, many countries had exclusive villages outside the cities to quarantine the lepers.
It was the same situation in the first-century Middle East. That’s why Jesus met them outside of the village. The verse says they were keeping their distance because, in those days, they were also required to keep a distance and announce, “I’m unclean! I’m a leper!” so that travelers were alerted.
Growing up in a third-world country, I have seen poverty, I have seen diseases, I have seen many kinds of suffering, but I have never seen a more cruel life than that of a lepper. The story continues,
Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:12b-13).
These lepers were helpless but not hopeless. Despite being marginalized by society, they kept their ears open and informed themselves of the latest news. Some of them might have been highly educated. They knew who Jesus was and knew when Jesus was passing by. They kept their hope alive.
Hearing Jesus passing by, they seized the opportunity and called out, asking Jesus to have mercy on them. The word “mercy” in Greek also means “empathy.” They asked Jesus to empathize with them. Of course, Jesus always does.
When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. (Luke 17:14).
This healing miracle differs from others because Jesus healed them without touching them. He only ordered them to show themselves to the priests because only the priests had the authority to declare them clean so they could reintegrate with the community.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. (Luke 17:15-16).
Only one out of nine turned around to give thanks to Jesus. Recovering from leprosy could be overwhelming because it was a significant transformation of life. They might be overjoyed to reunite with their family and friends and might have forgotten to thank their healer. But Jesus was concerned.
Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18).
It seems Jesus expected all of them to come to give thanks, not that he needed their gratitude but that their gratitude would make them whole. Based on the context, the nine might have an attitude of entitlement. Many Jews, especially the Pharisees and scribes, thought they were entitled to be blessed.
Jesus’ parable before this miracle reveals that we need to strip off our entitlement mentality even when we have slaved all day or suffered long. Jesus said in verse 10,
“So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’ ” (Lk 17:10).
In this verse, Jesus was not teaching us self-abasement but warning us against self-entitlement. Sometimes suffering can inflate our ego, causing us to think that we deserve better and God owes us a better life because we have paid our dues of suffering.
The entitlement mindset can make us ungrateful. “Why should I give thanks if what I receive is what I am entitled to?” An entitlement mindset cannot make us joyful because it’s like receiving a paycheck rather than a bonus.
When Jesus teaches us to keep the attitude of “worthless slaves,” he wants us to be humble and able to count the blessings. Since we are worthless, everything we receive is not a paycheck but a bonus. Even every breath we take becomes a blessing.
This Samaritan leper could praise God fervently because he knew he did not deserve it. According to the news of the day, Jesus was the Messiah for the Jews, not for a worthless foreigner like him. So, he felt the grace more profoundly. Still, there is something more important in his thanksgiving because Jesus said to him,
“Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19).
The word “well” in Hebrew tradition has the same meaning as “saved.” Those nine lepers were healed, but this one is saved. That means this Samaritan leper received more than what he asked for—not just the healing from leprosy but also eternal life. Which is more important?
Sometimes we can be shortsighted by expecting temporal well-being over eternal salvation. Jesus wants to give us the latter, and that’s why he expects all ten lepers to return to claim it. God doesn’t need our gratitude, but God wants us to claim our salvation through our attitude of gratitude.
This event is similar to the Parable of the Banquet. The banquet was ready, but nobody came. The nine lepers might be busy showing off their healing, reuniting with their families, applying for a job, or starting a new business. As the saying goes, “If Satan cannot make you bad, he will make you busy.”
Only this unworthy foreigner appreciated the banquet. For him, expressing his gratitude was more important than anything else. Jesus said his faith had saved him. Based on this statement, Jesus equates gratitude with faith.
The Bible says, “Without faith, no one can please God.” Then, how do we express our faith? Does faith mean doing nothing and expecting God to come through? Now, we learn from Jesus that faith is expressing our gratitude.
As I mentioned, God has a soft spot for grateful people. Here is a secret to prayers God likely to answer. Jesus asked us to pray with faith. How do you pray with faith? Pray with thanksgiving. The Bible says,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Php 4:6).
It says to pray with thanksgiving because our heavenly Father finds it difficult to resist a grateful heart. I know God might have other reasons not to answer our prayer according to God’s greater purpose, but you touch his soft spot when you express your gratitude before receiving what you pray for.
Now, how do we keep an attitude of gratitude? Be humble like a worthless slave, an undeserved Samaritan, or an unentitled foreigner. When we get rid of self-entitlement, everything becomes a reason for gratitude. Most importantly, like a beggar’s bowl, gratitude is a vessel for salvation.
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom and happiness.