11Now as he was traveling to Jerusalem, going through the border area between Samaria and Galilee, 12he came to a certain village and ten men who had leprosy met him. They were standing outside, 13and they shouted, â€œJesus, Master! Have mercy on us!â€ 14And when he saw them he said to them, â€œGo, show yourselves to the priests.â€ And while they were traveling, they were cleansed. 15But one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned, praising God with a loud voice. 16He fell on his face at Jesusâ€™ feet, thanking him. Now he was a Samaritan. 17But Jesus answered, â€œWere not ten men cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18Was no one found coming back to give glory to God except this foreigner?â€ 19Then he said to the man, â€œGet up and go. Your faith has saved you.â€ — Luke 17:11-19
No, you’re not missing anything. That is the same text as I used last Thursday. I’m using it again.
When I teach about spiritual gifts I often have people do an exercise to help them understand their own gifts and most especially the gifts of the group of congregation. I start by having people talk about what they see as their own gifts. Many times, people are very hesitant to talk about their own gifts because it seems prideful. They’re afraid to make claims about themselves. Sometimes they’re afraid they will be laughed at if they claim an â€œimportantâ€ gift, such as prophecy.
But others are simply unaware of their own gifts and how much impact they have on other people. I remember one Sunday School class where I was a guest teacher and I conducted this exercise. There was one couple that simply couldn’t identify any gifts. They were concerned, because they felt that they should, but they couldn’t actually identify any. Other members of the class identified both of them as having the gift of helping and of encouragement. At first the couple couldn’t believe this claim. They wondered when they had done such things. But the class had specific examples of times when they had exercised those gifts. They told them how important these events had been.
When that class was over, the couple was in tears, but they were tears of joy. They realized that they were exercising gifts of the Holy Spirit as well, and that others recognized their gifts. That was a great encouragement to them.
There are many people in the church and the community who carry out acts of service all the time. Without them the community would be impoverished. You may find these folks at work as well. They are the people who notice when you do something helpful and tell you about it. They are the ones who encourage others and build up the team.
In the story of the ten lepers, we aren’t told precisely why the nine lepers didn’t return to thank Jesus. But I can think of one excuse, because I’ve heard it before. These guys don’t have a theology that tells them that Jesus is God. They simply know that he’s a teacher and healer, and they’ve been healed. I can imagine one of them thinking something like this: He’s just a man. God is the one who healed me. I’ll just praise God on the way to the temple, and that will be enough. I don’t need to go back and thank him, because God can hear me anywhere!
So nine of them go right ahead, and only one goes back. There’s so much that’s right about that excuse that we may miss what’s wrong. While we know that Jesus was more than a man, other people who exercise the gifts of the Spirit are just people. The blessing is divine. But the person who exercises the gift is very human too, is probably struggling with the enemy’s attack, and you can perform a small task in building the kingdom.
Just say â€œThank you!â€
It’s pretty simple, but it encourages people. They may be wondering whether their little cards and notes are even being received. They may wonder if their prayers are being answered. If they can hear from you, they may be encouraged, and you can have a part in all the joy and encouragement that will follow.
How about looking for someone you can thank today?