What Keeps Us from Being Thankful? 

(Photo by Selma Komisky)

What Keeps Us from Being Thankful?

By Zelda Dominguez

Why is it so easy to forget to thank God for His blessings? We get distracted by things such as success, pride, our problems, or self-sufficiency. In the Bible there’s a story in the book of Luke that caused me to really think about this question.

As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?  Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

– Luke 17:11-19

Were the nine not grateful for their healing, or did their joy in the gift cause them to quickly forget the giver? Yes, it is possible even for those who have received much to take God’s favors for granted. The writings of the apostles make it clear that the giving of thanks is an essential accompaniment to all other aspects of Christian living. But first of all, there must be a heart of gratitude within, a full recognition of the bountiful grace of our Heavenly Father, and an appreciation of all His gifts. We read in James 1:17 that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.”

The lepers desperately cried out to Jesus for help. Only one came back to thank and worship him. As Jesus told them all to go to the priest in accordance with the law to verify they were free from leprosy, they went. Obedience is first required and as they obeyed what he said, they were all healed. Now, perhaps they were focused on getting to the priest, or maybe they thought they’d see Jesus later because they wanted to confirm if they were really healed? It could be various reasons they didn’t return, but faith is also required.

The one leper out of ten, another version says “returned”, which is the same word as repentance. He had a complete turnaround—a 180! He started afar and ended at the feet of Jesus. He believed he was healed and was grateful to the one who did it. Although Jesus healed them all physically, in the end he healed the one leper completely… body, soul and spirit.  If you’re thankful, you are going to end up closer to Jesus.

Are you finding it hard to be thankful this time of the year? The average adult makes 35,000 choices per day. Won’t you choose to make a conscious effort to be thankful? As we see in this story it’s shocking one out of ten did just that, but it is so common. We often find ourselves among the nine. Do you notice people are willing to blame God, but not willing to thank Him for the things that go right?

Have you ever thought about how God says you are either for Him or against Him? Matthew 5:37 states, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’. In Revelations 3:15 it mentions, “you are neither cold nor hot.” All those statements are either one or the other, no middle ground. So, when we look in terms of being thankful, you either are or you are unthankful.

All 10 lepers received God’s grace. We like the good things that we get in this world, but we do not associate them with the gracious hand of God. We think that we deserve them, or that we have earned them, and take things for granted.  It is a matter of the heart. Like John 7:38 warns “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water,” there is a danger of a thankless heart. Romans 1:21 says, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

The key is that we recognize and acknowledge God as the giver of these good things and worship him. I’ve started a Thanksgiving journal and encourage you to do the same. I don’t mean just for this season; get a journal you can take time to daily write the things you are thankful for. Big or small, write them in a prayer form or just simply, “Thank You Lord for my…”