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An Attitude of Gratitude
"And as He entered a certain village, ten leprous men who stood at a
distance met Him;  and they raised their voices, saying, 'Jesus, Master,
have mercy on us!'  And when He saw them, He said to them, ]Go and
show yourselves to the priests.' And it came about that as they were going,
they were cleansed.  Now one of them, when he saw that he had been
healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice,  and he fell
on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.
 And Jesus answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But the
nine-- where are they?  Was no one found who turned back to give glory
to God, except this foreigner?'  And He said to him, 'Rise, and go
your way; your faith has made you well.'" NASB
You may have heard that Bill Gates is pouring millions of dollars into
ending the worldwide AIDS epidemic. If you have, then you probably think
that the people benefiting from his generosity are grateful. I'm sure that
some are, but not everybody. In an editorial for HindustanTimes.com, Indregeet
Hazra writes, "Bill Gates wants to capture a market in India. Fair enough.
He wants to give money to AIDS research in India. Are the two connected?
Of course they are." Instead of being grateful for the $100 million dollars
Gates gave, Hazra calls his motives into question. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
It doesn't appear that Gates can win. In 1997, Ted Turner called Gates
a skinflint because he wasn't giving to charity like Turner thought he
should. Although Turner put his money where his big mouth was and pledged
to give up to a billion dollars to charity, he couldn't just leave well
enough alone. Not only did he call a press conference to announce his generosity,
but he had to take a swipe at Gates. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Now Gates is devoting much of his time to do some good with his money
and instead of being grateful for what he is doing, the recipients of the
generosity are crying Imperialism and accusing Gates of impure motives.
Personally, I don't know what Gate's motives are, but I do know that he
isn't the first person who did good things and didn't receive gratitude
from the people he was helping.
In "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice,"
Christopher Hitchens "accused Mother Teresa of carrying out this grand
charade of charity. Her real motive, according to Hitchens was to convert
the 'Third World' to Catholicism." Hazra criticized Hitchen's position,
he wrote "Mother Teresa did spread the word of Jesus to the people she
served. But then, just because her desire to serve people happened to be
powered by her desire to spread Catholicism isn't the boo-boo that Hitchens
wanted to portray it as." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
I was shocked to hear Mother Teresa criticized in this manner and was
pleased that the commentator from India defended her to some extent. You'd
think people in India wouldn't question her motives, they'd just be grateful
for her service, and you'd think they'd be so grateful for Gate's generosity
that they'd smile, take the money for AIDS research and say a prayer of
gratitude for the help.
Gratitude is a simple thing, but don't mistake simplicity with ease-it
isn't always that easy. REALLY, GRATITUDE IS AN EXTENSION OF OUR FAITH.
We can only be grateful when we know that we do not deserve our blessings
and we did not create them. And to some degree, gratitude is a suspension
of cynicism-a faith in the person doing the good deed. As gratitude relates
to our relationship to the Lord, it is a faith that God is good-that He
is in control-and what He is doing in our life is good-even when bad things
Instead of being bitter that he had leprosy, the Samaritan leper expressed
his gratitude for the healing in his life. In his book, Seasons
under the Son, Tim Wesemann wrote, "The Bible tells us that he [the
leper] came back praising Jesus and thanking Him. It doesn't say exactly
what the man said to Him, although it seems obvious that he would have
given thanks for healing. But let's take it a step further. I wonder if
sometime later-days, months, or even years-the healed man realized that
if it weren't for the leprosy, he wouldn't have become a believer." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
No one would say leprosy is good. It is a terribledisease.
But wouldn't we all agree that the man coming to
good, regardless of what motivated Him.
SOMETIMES, OUR BURDENS BECOME OUR BLESSINGS.
In the chapter on Brokenness in my book Future
Church, I wrote about how having cancer and losing my voice is now
something I'm grateful for. "Today, if God said to me, 'I'll give you that
year back. You can go back to a cancer-free state, you can relive the year
with your voice and without cancer, but you'll never know the loyalty you
experienced from a church that stood beside you, or the love that you came
to know from your bride who lived her wedding vows, 'in sickness and in
health' before you, and you will never know that your brokenness is covered
with My grace.' I'd say, 'No thank you. I'll keep the cancer.'
Out of the brokenness, I found peace. In the silence, I heard God."
Gratitude isn't the byproduct of a Pollyanna existence-it is what happens
to us once we've sunk our teeth deeply into life and tasted the bitter
along with the sweet; the rotten and the ripe. We have an attitude of gratitude
when we jettison our provincial preoccupation with ourselves and stop living
life with a sense of entitlement-a conviction that God and everybody else
owes us something.
But even if we achieve enough self actualization and spiritual maturity
to know that the world doesn't revolve around us, there is still something
that can squash our attitude of gratitude. It isn't sinister or overbearing.
It is more like a constant rain that erodes our better judgement than a
sudden downpour that engulfs our soul in a flash flood.
It is BUSYNESS. I'm not so sure that the other 9 lepers were self-centered
slobs, at least not consciously. Perhaps they were so excited about their
healing that they ran straight to their family or friends that they'd been
isolated from. Maybe they weren't so much thoughtless as they were busy-they
had people to see and things to do.
Why are we so restless?Why must every moment of our days be filled with
ceaseless activities?We've replaced our porch swings with instant messaging,
pagers and cell phones.We rush from here to there, with no apparent destination.We're
in a hurry.We're busy.
What's the big deal about being busy? Well for one thing, when our schedule
is over filled things that matter the most to us almost always get shoved
out. Things like enjoying life, enjoying our family, enjoying our relationship
with God. We become more demanding of ourselves and others and less grateful.
And an ungrateful heart is fertile ground for all kinds of sin. Romans
1:21 NIV says,
"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave
thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts
I've looked into my own heart and I know that when it comes to spiritual
things, I'm a leper. Without Jesus' touch, I would have died in my sin
and spent eternity in hell. The only question that remains is what kind
of leper will I be? The ungrateful kind? Or the kind that isn't too busy
to say thank you?
I pray that you will have a blessed Thanksgiving this year. One where
you find time to be grateful, even if you have bad things happening to
you right now.