As we stop to give thanks for the many wonderful blessings in our lives, it’s important that we understand where true gratitude should lead us. To explain what I mean, take a look at Luke 17:11-19, the account of the ten lepers where only one returned to thank Jesus.

It’s hard to fault the nine lepers. One could certainly empathize with their desire to go see the family and friends they had been forced to avoid for so long. But beyond even that, they were still committed to doing their religious duty of going to the priest as laid out in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 13).

So, to recap the story briefly:

  • They acknowledged Jesus as “Master” in some sense.

  • They came to Him for help, having faith He could do something for them.

  • They performed the duty required of them by their religion.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, everything they did was good! They had a working faith in Jesus and they performed their religious duty. That’s basically what Christianity is, right? Unfortunately, for many it is. In fact, for a decent chunk of my life, I thought that’s what Christianity was, too. But there’s something more to it.

Notice how the text uses different words to describe what happened. As the lepers went they were “cleansed” and “healed” (17:14-15, NASB), but the one who gave thanks was told something different when he returned to give thanks – “Your faith has made you well” (literally “your faith has saved you”). Being cleansed and healed was absolutely incredible… but Jesus had something even better if they had the gratitude to realize it.

Just like the 5,000 loved the bread Jesus gave them but didn’t understand that Jesus was the real bread they should’ve pursued (John 6), so the lepers should have realized that Jesus had an even greater healing to offer. But, they missed it because they didn’t have the gratitude that led them back to Him. They were excited about His gifts but not about Him. At that point they had gotten what they needed from Him and were moving on to their duties.

Of course, we can be guilty of the same.

In our lives:

  • We may acknowledge Jesus as Lord or Master.

  • We may have come to Him in faith that He could heal us spiritually when we were baptized into Him, and we may come to Him now when we are in need in some way, having the full faith that He can help us.

  • We may go about our religious duties of attending worship, contributing, praying, reading our Bibles, etc.

As with the lepers, what we do with Jesus afterward makes all the difference. If we are content with getting what we need from Him and then going about our lives (even as active members of the church faithfully performing our religious duties) without realizing He is the real prize, we miss the point entirely and the blessings we get will be limited. On the other hand, if we realize we constantly have reason to go back to Him and fall at His feet in thankfulness to Him every day, we’ll get the real blessing – Jesus Himself. He will truly make us whole.

So, as we dwell on the blessings we have and give thanks for them, it’s important that we make sure our gratitude takes us back to the One we have to thank for everything. Our Father’s blessings should lead us to Him. And, the more time we spend in His presence, the more we realize that He is the gift that truly matters, and He always gives Himself to those who seek Him with grateful hearts.