On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him.
Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 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. 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?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go your way; your faith has made you well.” — Luke 17:11-19
This week, many of us in the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving, a national holiday. We give thanks, as the first settlers to the country did, for the blessings we have experienced in the past year. But thanksgiving as an attitude or a way of life didn't originate in the New World. Acknowledging God’s kindness and generosity to us is a foundation stone of our faith, handed down as a key element in the lives of the early Christians. The Greek word for thanksgiving, eucharisteo, is used more than sixty times in the New Testament as a response to the incredible generosity of Jesus, who poured out his life for us on the cross. Whenever the members of the early Church pondered Jesus at Calvary, they responded by proclaiming their gratitude to him.
This week is a good time to reflect on the countless blessings we experience through the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Take some extra time to examine your heart, and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any attitudes—for example, discontentment, taking God’s gifts for granted, holding on to your own agenda, or complacency—that blind you to God’s blessings and block you from experiencing and expressing gratitude. As you note what hinders you from having a grateful heart, ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you might change your outlook. Then resolve to make giving thanks to God a more conscious and active part of your life, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but every day.
A Grateful Heart
Here are some other Scripture passages that might also help you pursue a life of gratitude:
• “[B]e filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” —Ephesians 5:18-20
• “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” —1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
• “I thank you, Lord, with all my heart; in the presence of the angels to you I sing. . . . I praise your name for your mercy and faithfulness.” —Psalm 138:1, 2
In the Words of the Saints
Consider, as well, these words from the saints:
What better words may we carry in our heart, pronounce with our mouth, write with a pen, than the words, “Thanks be to God”? There is no phrase that may be said so readily, that can be heard with greater joy, felt with more emotion or produced with greater effect. —St. Augustine, Letter 72
We should not accept in silence the benefactions of God, but return thanks for them. —St. Basil the Great
There is no one who, with a little bit of thought, cannot but discover many reasons for being grateful to God. . . . Once we have come to an appreciation of all he has given to us, we will have abundant cause to give thanks continually. —St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Count your blessings. Begin a list of what you are grateful for—your own personal “litany of thanks”—and keep adding to it. Recount this list occasionally as you pray, thanking God for each of the particular benefits he has bestowed on you. At Thanksgiving dinner, if you have the opportunity, share some of your reasons to give thanks.
Jeanne Kun is the author of numerous books, articles, and Bible studies.