“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17
Born Dec. 30 1865, Rudyard Kipling became one of the most popular novelists and poets in England’s history. Best known for his classic works like “Captain Courageous,” “The Man Who Would Be King,” and “The Jungle Book,” Kipling introduced the literary technique known as indirect exposition and in 1907 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
During an interview a newspaper reporter, commenting on the wealth Kipling had acquired for his literary work, said “Mr. Kipling someone calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over $100 per word.” Reaching into his pocket the reporter pulled out a $100 bill and with tongue-in-cheek said, “Give me one of your $100 words.” Kipling took the money, carefully folded the bill and tucked it into his pocket and offered a powerful $100 word, “Thanks.”
The Gospel of Luke records an event in the life of Jesus as he traveled along the border of Galilee and Samaria. Upon entering a particular village he is met by a company of sad, sick, suffering men; ten men to be exact! These men were social outcasts, forbidden by law to come within six feet of another person even their own family. In fact the law required, when approached by a stranger, they must cover their face and cry out, “unclean, unclean.” These men had a common affliction, Mycobacterium leprae or better known as leprosy.
The term leprosy occurs a number times in the Bible and is used to describe a variety of infectious skin diseases. One man writes, “It did not kill, but neither did it end. Instead it lingered for years causing the tissue to degenerate and deforming the body.” These ten men were desperate for a word of hope. Each new day brought greater awareness of the anguish of physical suffering, the loneliness of social isolation, and the certainty of a slow painful death.
Upon entering the village Jesus is met with the desperate cry for mercy from the ten leprous men. Demonstrating that he was God in the flesh, Jesus cleanses the lepers and sends them to the priest for inspection as an obvious announcement that Messiah is here. As the ten cleansed, renewed and blessed individuals depart from Jesus only one stops to offer that one hundred dollar word, “thanks.” Only one in ten said, “thanks.”
Perhaps these men were so overcome with emotion they forgot, perhaps they were so anxious to return to their family that’s all they could think about or perhaps they just simply neglected to recognize where their healing came from but the sad fact is 90 percent who were changed offered no expression of gratitude. Imagine receiving a new lease on life and failing to give thanks to the one that made it possible. Imagine being the recipient of, “every good and perfect gift,” and failing to acknowledge where the blessings originate. As we move toward the Thanksgiving Holiday let us remember that all the blessings of life originate from the gracious hand of our loving Lord.
The Lord Jesus modeled gratitude for us. At the time of his greatest crisis, just hours before his brutal crucifixion and separation from the Father, Jesus took the bread and cup, the elements representing His crucified body and His shed blood and he gave thanks.
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once said, “No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night.” The one thankful leper stands as a reminder of our emergence from the kingdom of night. God in his steadfast love and amazing grace has brought us from death to life and bestowed upon us his good and perfect gifts. Take some time during the thanksgiving season to express heartfelt gratitude to God for his goodness and to others for their contributions into our lives.
Dr. Darrell Tate is minister at Highland Park Baptist Church.