Thanksgiving has been celebrated in America since its founding, but it was not established as a national holiday until 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln. Since then, America has officially had one day set aside to give thanks. However, having a day set aside for thanksgiving doesn’t mean that we are thankful or have a good reason for thankfulness. So what is our reason for thankfulness?
In Luke 17 Jesus is headed towards Jerusalem. On the way he runs into ten lepers who cry to Him for healing. Jesus commands them to go show themselves to the priests. As the lepers rush to the priest, one of them, a Samaritan, upon realizing he was cleansed returned and gave thanks to Jesus. Then Jesus 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?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”
According to the Levitical Law, lepers were unclean, which meant they were unable to enter the Temple and had to remain separate from society. They were social outcasts because they were perpetually unclean. There was no way to be cleansed of the leprosy. Thus, when Jesus healed them, it was not just that they were no longer sick. They were now able to participate in society. Jesus radically altered their standing within the community. You would think that this miracle would produce thankfulness within the hearts of all those who were healed. But only one returned to give thanks. The man who turned back and gave thanks was blessed for it.
We are like the lepers in that we are unclean because of our sin. But when we become Christians, Christ cleanses us from our sin and restores our communion with God. The reality of this leads to an abundance of thankfulness which should extend to every area of our lives. Consider Jesus’ parable of the man who was forgiven a debt that he could never hope to repay who immediately goes out and throws another man in prison who owes him a pittance. How profoundly ungrateful that man was! As Christians, we must be thankful because Christ has given us what we do not deserve. If our lives are marked by ingratitude, what does it say about our view of our salvation? Do we value it?
Christians must be thankful because God commands it. This means that being thankful is not just a feeling we have in response to a positive action. It is a discipline. It is something that we must do whether we feel like it or not. The fact that we have to be commanded means that thankfulness is not our natural reaction, but is something that must be learned. Here are just a few of the many verses where thankfulness is commanded:
- Psalm 106:1 – Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – Give thanks in all circumstances.
As we celebrate this Thanksgiving season, and throughout the rest of the year, remember to be thankful because Jesus saved us from the wrath of God and He commands it of us.