Warm-up: It’s Christmas Day. You wake up and discover gifts under the tree with your name on them. Were you able to tear through your presents as soon as you woke up and then go play outside? Or, were you required to wait for each person to open one gift at a time, and then after opening each gift, you had to get up and hug the person that gave it to you? What about Thanksgiving…was it a significant day where you would share what you were thankful for (maybe even in an awkward prayer circle), or was it a more casual day of food and football?
Read Luke 17:11-19
In this passage we find Jesus moving toward Jerusalem and entering a village where he comes across ten lepers standing at a distance. If you were at LIVECOAST this last weekend we talked in detail about the condition of a person with leprosy. But, for those of you who weren’t, leprosy is a skin disease that attacks the body, leaving sores, missing toes, fingers, nose, ears, and damaged limbs.
The physical pain is unimaginable, but the emotional pain lepers experienced was even worse. Lepers were deemed “unclean” in society both physically and spiritually. They were removed from their families, jobs, communities, and quarantined to leper colonies. If matters couldn't get any worse, they were forced to loudly yell “unclean!” if anyone happened to come near them, warning people to stay away.
There was no medical treatment for leprosy; a miracle was the only way it could be cured. That is exactly why the lepers cried out when they saw Jesus entering their village, “Master, have mercy on us!”
How would Jesus respond? The text says, "Jesus looked at them and said, 'Go show yourselves to the priests.' And, as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy."
Lepers were known as the most “dirty” people in society of that day. They were people you would try your best not to look at, not only because their bodies were so disfigured, but also because people saw them as ones being punished for their sin. But the passage tells us that when Jesus heard their cries, he looked at them. Jesus wasn’t afraid to look at them in their state of leprosy and respond to their cries for help. Just like Jesus stops and sees the lepers and gives them his undivided attention, he sees us. How does it make you feel to know that a perfect, sinless, holy God isn’t afraid of your dirtiness, and that he is ready and willing to respond to your deepest needs? Have you experienced this in your own life?
Of the ten lepers one of them when he was healed came back to Jesus to give praise, falling at his feet, thanking him for what he had done. 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 then Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has saved you.”
We learn that only one of the ten men (10 %) came back to Jesus and expressed thankfulness. All ten are healed, but only one is saved. All ten were grateful, but only one was thankful. On Sunday we learned that gratefulness and thankfulness are two different things.
Gratitude is feeling thankful.
Thankfulness is gratitude in action.
Have you ever been thankful but you weren't truly grateful? Why did you do it? Was it an expectation, or maybe you said thanks because it was the polite thing to do? Maybe you've found yourself making thankfulness more about how you look, rather than true appreciation toward the giver of the gift.
Have you ever been grateful but not really thankful? Maybe you have a genuine appreciation for where you live, your family, friends, job, church, God...but you wonder why your life doesn't have more purpose, passion, and joy?
Share how you’ve seen either of these scenarios play out in your own life...
What do you think kept the other nine lepers from returning to Jesus and giving him thanks?
There are many things that can keep us from being thankful. A few of the big ones include: comparing ourselves to others, competing with others, playing the victim, or living with a sense of entitlement. Of these four, which one do you identify most as the source for a lack of thankfulness? What is it about these things that make you thankless rather than thankful?
On Sunday we heard something that may have been new for many of us, “What if thankfulness wasn’t about God, but was about us? God doesn’t need our thankfulness, we need our thankfulness” What do you think this means?
How does a thankful life produce a joyful life?
One pastor described the result of thankfulness this way, “When I’m thankful, my tank is full.”
Thankfulness is a deliberate choice. It’s a discipline. And like any kind of training, it takes practice. There will be moments in life when you feel blessed beyond belief, and there will be times when you feel like your entire world is falling apart. Choosing to give God thanks, regardless of your circumstance, is not to build God’s self-confidence, but to build the kind of joy within you that cannot be taken away. Just as the scriptures say, “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
What if we were thankful not just on Thanksgiving, one day of the year? How would that shape us personally? As a community?
What do you think might happen to the world around us (your friends, family, co-workers, classmates) if we moved beyond just gratefulness, and started practicing true thankfulness? How might that inspire others, and point them toward Jesus?
Living it out this week: Each day this week, express to God (out loud) one response to each of the following questions:
What are you grateful for today?
Who are you thankful for today?