Randy Langham
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A few months after starting my first job I was nearing the end of my day. I had worked almost 8 hours, and I was tired - ready to go home. When I finished the last batch of burgers a manager said, “Hey these look good!”

I was shocked and at the same time exhilarated. Receiving that appreciation sent renewed energy through me. I was ready to work another 8 hours. Funny how we crave gratefulness for what we do. Odd how we are so hesitant to give it out to others.

I wonder if God appreciates gratefulness.

One story in the Bible lets us peek into the heart of God in a way that answers the above question. In Luke 17:11 Jesus is headed to Jerusalem. He is on His way to die the most horrible death of all.

Along the border of Samaria and Galilee He comes upon a village. Ten lepers run out to Jesus and beg for healing from this awful skin disease. In the midst of His anguish knowing He was about to be crucified, Jesus had compassion for the men and sent them away with orders on how to be healed. And 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.

He returned to give thanks! He returned to give thanks! But then Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine — where are they?  Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?" It is very possible that Jesus in His humanity was excited in His heart that all ten would return to give thanks. Instead of all ten, there was only one. Jesus was hurt that the others were ungrateful.

So why the difference between the one and the nine?

One reason is explained in verses 11, 16 and 17. The village was on the border of Samaria and Galilee. The primary residents of Galilee were Jews. The primary residents of Samaria were Samaritans. Verse 16 says the one was a Samaritan, and verse 17 says he was a foreigner, a different person, a stranger. Perhaps this suggests the other nine were Jews. Now we come to an important question. Whom would you expect to go back to Jesus, the Jew, and give thanks - the Samaritan or the Jews? I personally would have thought the Jews.

That the foreigner returned to give thanks leads us to an important conclusion. Those closest to us are the most ungrateful. Why? Because of expectations. Why tell mom thanks for buying your clothes; it is expected of her to do that. But if your neighbor buys you some clothes you are more likely to say thanks, because to a point you don’t expect her to do that. Why tell your dad thanks for working in the hot sun all day to provide for your needs; it is expected of him to do that. But if a passerby on the street hands you a $10 bill for no reason you will likely say thanks because you did not expect it.

To improve your gratefulness, remove your expectations.

In seminary I received a sharp looking outfit: dark blue slacks and a matching shirt primarily red with bright white stripes. I knew that washing it would fade the color, so I saved the outfit for a special occasion - like a date. But when months had passed and I was not wearing the outfit I went ahead and wore it a few times and washed it a few times.

A relative was kind enough to offer to wash my clothes, so I agreed. To my horror the shirt was returned with some of the red bled onto the bright white stripes. I actually thought I might not ever get a date.

I couldn’t believe it. I went to my bedroom upset. To prepare for an argument about “ruining” my shirt I realized I had better know what arguments would be used against me so I would be ready to give an answer. [I read that in the Bible somewhere.]

It hit me. If we were to get into an argument my relative would have held the trump card. The person would have said, “How can you be angry at me when the one who ruined your shirt was the same person who gave you the shirt.”

Why do we human beings complain about anything? Truthfully, all of our complaints are against God, yet He is the one who has given us every good gift. Somehow we think we deserve more.

What about the one leper who returned to give thanks? Anything else we can learn from his life? Look again at verse 12. When the ten begged for healing they stood at a distance. [upwards of 50 feet, because leprosy is highly contagious.] But when the leper in verse 15 and 16 saw he was healed, he turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. Notice the difference in posture. While begging he stood. When humbled he fell. Somehow I believe the leper realized he did not deserve to be even a leper.

At the same time I received my navy blue and red outfit I experienced more pain than ever before. I applied to over 80 different companies and could not get a decent job. I did get a job cooking hamburgers again and the grease that caked onto my skin was so bad I could walk by trash barrels and the flies would leave the trash to follow me. A girl I thought would be my wife was always busy when I asked her out. My roommate refused to ride with me to seminary 20 minutes away. [He later told me I was hitting objects while I drove.] My vision was so bad I could not read the dash of my car. [I found out later the grease from the hamburger grills was being absorbed by my contact lenses.] Roaches crawled freely in my apartment, and many other things could be listed in my pity party.

Eventually I attended a seminar that mentioned a woman cleaning house when she heard the door bell. At the door a man gave her a $100 and said “Have a nice day!” The same thing happened the next few days, and she found herself peeking out the window each day wondering if he would return. He did for a month. On the 31st day she looked out the window and saw the man pass her house and go to the house next door giving the money to that other woman.

She was furious. Why would he give the money to her?!

Truth be told. The first woman never deserved the first thirty $100 bills. She thought she deserved the money, and when she did not get more she was upset.

Then it hit me. I did not deserve the goodness of God during those seminary years, yet I was angry for not getting more. I gave up my expectations and for the first time I could actually say, “Thank you God for the roaches, for friends who avoid me, for financial difficulties, etc. because I do not deserve that good of a life.”

Often I hear people say, “How could a loving God allow so much evil on good people?” This question always exists because of deeper beliefs. One of them is that we deserve better. Question. Would you rather receive what you really deserve? The next time you say, “I don’t deserve this!” Would you rather God give you what you really deserve?

It sure is easy to be grateful when we see life from God’s perspective.

[By the way, the next time the red shirt was washed, the red coloring in the white area washed out. You were worried, weren’t you!]

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