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‘Where are the other nine?’

Jesus’ question demonstrates the divine nature of gratitude.

A friend suggested that I share my thoughts on gratitude. 

Jesus addresses the issue in Luke 17, as he travels to Jerusalem, walking along the border between Samaria and Galilee. Ten men with leprosy meet him and cry out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” He tells them to go to show themselves to the priests. As they go, they are cleansed.

One returns, throws himself at Jesus’ feet and thanks him. Luke’s gospel records that this man is a Samaritan and that Jesus asks him, “Where are the other nine who were healed?”

Gratitude to God is such a big issue that I want to spend more time thinking about it and understand how to encourage expressing our thankfulness for all God has done for us — from creating this amazing and beautiful world we live in to sending his son to be a sacrifice for our sins. The subject is important and should be explored by all believers. 

Right now I want to address the subject of gratitude toward other people.

Most of us are like the nine who were healed. We move on to enjoy and celebrate life after we receive special service from others. 

In the midst of this year’s graduations, I was reminded of a sermon I heard years ago, encouraging Christians to thank teachers who made a difference by their kindness or encouragement. 

The teachers I remembered from high school were the ones that immediately came to mind. It had been 25 years since I graduated from high school, so I wrote the board of education to find out how to reach the five teachers I wanted to thank. 

Unfortunately, four had died. 

The first, my senior English teacher, required us to read a book a week and write a review of it. All of the books were classics, and a misspelled word meant the highest grade possible was a D. 

During one nine-week period, I wrote a 30-page research paper with at least 50 sources. In another section, we studied the great architecture of the world. 

The second was my physics teacher, who helped me understand a complex subject and encouraged me to study what I loved — not what others were encouraging me to study. 

The third, my American history teacher, helped me understand that history is not just facts, people and dates. She encouraged analysis of cause and effect in the development of a civilization. 

The fourth, my Latin teacher, made me understand the structure of language and gave me insight into the culture of the Roman empire. 

The teacher who was still living had moved to Florida. He taught me ancient history and Latin American history. 

More importantly, he fostered in me the understanding that worrying is waste — and curiosity and hard work always bring success. I made sure to tell him that in my letter, though I never received a reply.

In the years since, I have tried to reach out to people who have made a difference in my life and my thinking. 

Albert Schweitzer observed, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” 

Through the 33 years I have written this column, I have shared information about family members, friends, preachers and Bible teachers who have lit or rekindled a flame within me. 

Not many people have such a public forum, but we all can pick up the phone or write a letter (or email) expressing appreciation for a kindness or inspiration that we have received from a teacher, a friend, a parent or a grandparent. 

Often we fail to show gratitude to the people who are closest to us and have been a source of encouragement, inspiration or even correction.

Because we are all busy, we plan to write our thank you note or make a phone call later. How easy it is to let time pass and miss the opportunity to express our gratitude. 

Don’t miss your opportunity to acknowledge a special person who lifted you up.

Filed under: Insight

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