Faith is good…but gratitude goes one step further

It’s that time of year. Gratitude. Thankfulness. It becomes the sermon staple.  Mine included.

Yesterday I preached the great story Luke tells about Jesus encountering 10 lepers who are subsequently healed. (Luke 17:11-19) Talk about being at the right place at the right time. If only all of us were so lucky.

Jesus is heading to Jerusalem when 10 guys “in faith” ask to be healed. To which Jesus responds, “Go and show yourselves to the priest” They all leave to do just that, finding enroute that their skin is as good as new. Which is when one of them turns back to say thanks. We don’t know if he ever makes it to the priest. And it doesn’t really matter, because by expressing his gratitude, the leper is made more than healthy, he is made “whole”, complete. The Greek word is soro. (vs. 19)

Ten had their skin cleaned, but only one had his entire body altered…and it happened not because he had more “faith” but because he had gratitude. It seems faith is good, but there is something beyond faith: thankfulness.

“The gratitude effect” is the language Harvard researcher, Francesca Gino, coined for the improved productivity and good will that happens among teams when thankfulness is present. The New York Times devoted the front pages of their magazine to the question, “Is giving the secret to getting ahead?” Which makes me a little queasy since it turns gratitude into another tool for our own self-interest. Surely Jesus was commenting on something else than our own instincts and ambitions…wasn’t he?

I think it’s this: when I have a need I tend to focus on that need. A lot. I look for people who can help me solve my need. Perhaps God, perhaps someone else. And I’m happy when they help me because my need is satisfied. I can then move on to getting my next need fixed. But to stop and be grateful. To pause and reflect on them, their role, what it was about them that allowed them to assist me forces me to remove my gaze upon myself. Gratitude is not thinking about our need at all anymore — it’s fixed on the other. 

This season I want to reclaim the power of thanksgiving. Not only to God – but to those around me. Those who open the door for me, and those who serve me, and those who have corrected me and those who have advised me and a great array of others. I want to release thanksgiving regularly. Repeatedly. Without any guise of self-interest. I want it to so permeate my life that I’m not just looking good on the outside, but whole. Through and through.

How about you? Let’s not just have faith. Let’s be thankful.

Is it fear? Or is it faith?


For several hours today, the Israeli government completely shut down some of the sites held as most sacred by the Islamic faith. It was the first such closure since 1967, and it was in reaction to the shooting and wounding of Yehuda Glick, a man who many have considered one of the most extreme among Zionist activists. The man suspected of the shooting was quickly killed by Israeli police.

Today has been a bad day for religion.

When a faith-based government closes off access to a place of worship for those of another faith, it brings all of our worst images of religion to the fore: Religion is the cause of war. Religion is an instrument of oppression. Religion is violent. Perhaps we have even felt this way ourselves. When we see faith manipulated for political purposes so often, it’s hard not to be cynical.
But the thing is, the faith that so often makes the headlines is not really faith. When people are moved to control one another, that’s not faith; that’s fear. When people need to get in your face with their beliefs, that’s not faith; that’s fear. Fear is that little voice in the back of your mind that keeps whispering to you about being weak, about how important it is to be in control, to win. Faith doesn’t need to win. Faith doesn’t need to prove anything. God doesn’t need to prove anything.

God doesn’t need to be legislated into existence or defended with military might.

Today has been a bad day for religion. But for God it’s just another day of loving us despite ourselves.

Fear. And what to do about it.


This gallery contains 1 photo.

Some reactions to receiving $500 from LaSalle Street Church. I am fearful that I won’t be able to contribute any ‘good’ ideas…I’m afraid of the responsibility of it… I am afraid of taking risks…I’m afraid that I won’t be able to … Continue reading