It’s that time of year when gratitude and greed intersect. Have you ever reflected on the fact that during this season of Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas shopping, our culture is simultaneously telling us to be thankful while also pushing us to buy more stuff and want more gifts? The irony is not lost on me. I try to keep my family focused on giving thanks, but the constant bombardment of advertisements and catalogs and Christmas displays can be distracting. It makes me wonder how frequently I allow myself to get distracted from giving thanks to God.
In Luke chapter 17, ten lepers approach Jesus asking for Him to have mercy and heal their afflictions. And Jesus answers their plea.
“As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” (Luke 17:14-18)
Do you wonder what was going on with the other nine? Maybe they were too excited to return to Jesus. Maybe they rushed home to tell their loved ones that they had been healed. They were too busy or too distracted to thank God for the miracle He had worked in their lives.
This is a story that is still very relevant today. Sure, we don’t have groups of lepers on the outskirts of town, walking around with bells and being shunned by society. Yet we so often ask God for things and when He answers us, do we immediately return to thank Him?
Maybe the problem is that we’re too distracted to realize that God has answered our prayers. Maybe we need to take more time in silent contemplation to really see how God has worked in our life so that we can thank Him for the small or less obvious ways He has been good to us.
Remember that our prayer life is a relationship with God. Often our first instinct is to ask God for things. But if you had a friend or a neighbor who constantly asked you for things, but never thanked you for your help or generosity, would you want to continue helping them? The same is true for God. How can we expect God to give us what we ask if we are not grateful for what has already been done for us? And even if His answer is “no” or “not yet”, we should still thank Him for doing what He, in His infinite wisdom, knows we really need.
If you want to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in your own life, make sure you say thank you as much, if not more, than you ask. And take time each day to consider all the good things in your life. They might be big things or they might be small. But no matter how difficult times might be, we all have things to be grateful for. Maybe it’s a sunny day, or a breathtaking sunset, or a kind word or smile from a stranger. Pay attention to the little things in your life and focus on them rather than all the things that have gone wrong. Changing your mindset and returning to give thanks to God can do wonders for bringing you true and lasting joy.
“Give thanks to the LORD for he is good, his mercy endures forever!” (Psalms 107:1)