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.