Rudyard Kipling was a great British poet whose writings have been a blessing to many and brought a fortune to the writer. A newspaper reporter came up to him once and said, "Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over one hundred dollars a word." The reporter reached into his pocket and pulled out a one hundred dollar bill and gave it to Kipling and said, "Here's a one hundred dollar bill, Mr. Kipling. Now you give me one of your hundred dollar words." Upon receipt of the bill, Rudyard Kipling looked at the money, put it in his pocket and said, "Thanks!"
Did the reporter get his money’s worth? We might think not.
But then, what, after all, is the word “Thanks” worth? If it’s missing after you have served, after you have given, after you have gone out of your way, does it not bring many questions and concerns to mind? Questions such as: “Did he even notice?” “Did she think she deserved it?” “Was I out of line to do the good thing I did?” “Do they want me to keep doing what I’m doing?” “Maybe the person I helped didn’t want the help!” We might also wonder what that person’s lack of gratitude is telling us about him. But a little word, “Thanks,” erases those thoughts. It encourages us to do more good.
“Thanks” was important to Jesus. We recall the time he healed the ten lepers (see Luke 17), and sent them off to the priests to be examined and declared clean. Only one of the ten turned back to give thanks to Jesus.
Jesus was glad he did. But he wondered about the other nine. “Were there not ten cleansed?” He said, “but where are the nine?” All had been given a significant gift. All had been given the SAME gift. Yet only one says “Thanks,” and the rest say nothing.
Would we have been the one, or among the nine? In daily practice how is it? How do we respond to what we have been given?
And what have we been given? In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” Luther explains that daily bread includes “all that belongs to the wants and support of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, cattle, money, goods, a good spouse and children, good rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, order, honor, good friends". God has graciously supplied these things, and if He has withheld anything, it is because of His love and for a higher purpose than we might be able to see.
The natural human tendency is to grumble when we think we lack something rather than to thank God for what we have. The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us that we need grateful hearts. But where do grateful hearts come from?
The account of the healed lepers might serve to illustrate that grateful hearts come from something called humility. Jesus notes something interesting about the leper who returned thanks. He was a Samaritan. The others apparently were Jews. Ordinarily you wouldn’t find Jews and Samaritans together, but this group was brought together by their disease. Ordinarily the Jews despised the Samaritans, because they were a mixed race, descendants of Jewish and heathen intermarriage. The Jews were God’s chosen people. They had the prophets; they had the promises; and they thought themselves special because of it. They looked down on others, and especially the Samaritans. The Samaritans knew it.
Who, then, of the lepers, do you suppose accepted the healing with the most humility? Is it possible that the nine Jews who were healed by a Jew felt in some way deserving, but that the Samaritan, who also received the healing, was amazed that Jesus, being a Jew, would even give him the time of day, much less heal him? Could it be his humility that explains his gratitude?
But when it comes right down to it, who, in reality, WAS more deserving of the healing?
Actually neither one. All ten were healed on the same terms - it was a merciful gift from God.
The difference was in attitude. And Jesus was glad for the gratitude He saw in the Samaritan, because it revealed humility, and it is to the humble that God can give His grace.
Isaiah 57:15 says, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
Peter writes, “…for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
As we enter the thanksgiving season, if we find we are having trouble being grateful, perhaps our problem is deeper than ingratitude. Maybe we need to ask God to reveal to us our sins of pride.
President Lincoln, April 30, 1863, put it so well in his Proclamation for a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer: "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, the many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self‑sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."
Lincoln spoke on the national level, but on the personal level too, may we in humility be reminded that we are nothing more than recipients. May God give us hearts to better recognize the bounty with which He has blessed us, and in humbleness of mind, may our hearts overflow with gratitude.
Jesus is glad when He sees a grateful heart, because it reveals a humble heart, and a humble heart is a heart God can bless. That’s worth much more than a hundred dollars.