Do you know someone who constantly asks you for things? It could be anything. Help with work. Information on a topic of interest. Something personal. Something big. Something small. We all have those people in our lives who ask us for things. And, let’s be honest, it’s kind of nice to be asked for things.
It’s nice to be able to serve as a source of wisdom or intelligence. It’s nice to be considered an expert on something. It makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something, maybe. That’s what it feels like to me–that maybe all the random stuff jangling around in my head has a use.
I like to help people. I like to offer helpful information or funny stories. I like to be the person who has the answers. And I don’t mind being the one who always helps other people. But there are times when I get tired of it. And the one thing all those times have in common is how the person I’m helping responds.
Helping ungrateful people stinks.
You’ve helped an ungrateful person before, haven’t you? You do your best for them. You sacrifice time and effort to help them achieve their goal, and they don’t thank you. Or they don’t even acknowledge that you’ve done anything for them. Or, even if they thank you, they don’t mean it–and you can tell they don’t mean it.
It’s those people I get tired of helping, not because I want attention or adoration but because gratitude is right. But that gets me thinking about my own behavior. Do I thank people when they do nice things for me? Do I make sure they understand how much I appreciate their time and effort on my behalf?
Today’s verses are Luke 17:11-19.
As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers 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.”
Do you ever find yourself in that position? Not with leprosy per se but faced with an issue you can’t overcome on your own. You don’t have to search hard for trouble. Trouble just happens naturally, and before you know it, those little troubles can become overwhelming.
That’s when we turn to God. We cry out for God to help us. We make bargains and promises, and most of the time, God does what we ask.
Then what? What do you do when God answers your prayer? How do you react? Are you stunned speechless? Do you stare blankly? Do you throw a party to celebrate? Do you run out and tell everyone about your good luck?
I think that’s what happened with these guys Jesus healed on the road. Ten of them. Lepers. It was a horrible disease that required them to leave their families and live in colonies of similarly infected people. And just like that, Jesus healed them. Nine of them ran off rejoicing. I’m sure they knew what had happened. I’m sure they realized who had healed them. But Jesus is God, right? Isn’t that what He’s supposed to do?
So often I think we jam God and Jesus into this little box. He’s the God of Creation. Yes, nice title. He’s the Maker of Everything. Also nice title. But what can He do for me? God is the Great Physician. The Great Healer. That’s what He does. He brings the dead to life, He forgives sins, He works all things together for our good, yada yada yada.
That’s what we expect from God, isn’t it?
The problem is when you expect something from someone, you don’t feel the need to thank them. You don’t thank a taxi driver for taking you from point a to point b, do you? You don’t thank your barber for cutting your hair? Granted, if you’re polite, you do. But you see where I’m going, don’t you?
Those nine men knew who Jesus was, and they expected Him to heal them. And that’s awesome. If 21st century Christians could grasp that concept, we’d all be a lot better off. They knew who Jesus was and they expected Him to do the impossible. But the one understood something that the nine didn’t.
God doesn’t owe us anything.
You realize that, don’t you? God isn’t beholden to us. We don’t deserve anything He does for us. The prayers He answers He does out of the goodness of His heart, not because He must. He answers our prayers and directs our lives and helps us through difficulty because He wants to.
So if you don’t like helping someone because they don’t show gratitude, how do you think God feels when we treat Him the same way?
Being like the nine is just step one. Recognize who God is. Believe He can do the impossible. Yes. But there’s a difference between expecting Him to do great things and believing you deserve it.
So the next time God does something for you, sure, go celebrate. Go tell everybody about it. Make sure the whole world knows how awesome God is. But before all that, stop. And just say thank you. You don’t have to put on a show. You don’t have to make a big deal out of it. Just thank Him.