The week of Thanksgiving provides a great opportunity for us to pause and give thanks. As you sit around the table and give thanks for the blessings of the year, here is a powerful story from the Bible that illustrates five aspects of giving thanks.
11 While traveling to Jerusalem, He passed between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, 10 men with serious skin diseases met Him. They stood at a distance 13 and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And while they were going, they were healed. 15 But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. 16 He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus said, “Were not 10 cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And He told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well.”
When someone does something nice for you, say “thank you.” Have an attitude of gratitude in life. Give thanks for all of your blessings.
Jesus was delighted to see the Samaritan man who came back to give thanks (vv17-18). Saying “thank you,” “I am thankful for you,” or a similar statement shows that you are polite, will be an encouragement to others, and is the way that a Christ-follower should respond.
Give thanks to God
Giving thanks is more than just being thankful for the people in your life, the health that you have, and all of your blessings. When you think of the people and things that you are thankful for, you should give thanks to God for all of these things. The Samaritan man demonstrated this principle. When he returned to give thanks, he glorified God (v15).
Paul wrote to his friends in Thessalonica, “We always thank God for all of you, remembering you constantly in our prayers.” Psalm 107:1 says, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” James 1:17 reminds us, “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.” Don’t just give thanks. Give thanks to God.
Give thanks for Jesus
In the story, we see that the Samaritan man, once he realized that he was healed of his skin disease, returned and gave thanks to Jesus for what Jesus had done in his life (v16). He was thankful for Jesus! But his thankfulness for Jesus got even better. You see, in the Bible when we see Jesus healing people physically, that is always a sign that he can heal them spiritually. The physical healing is never the main point. The main point is that Jesus the Messiah came to be the Savior of the world for everyone who would believe in Him. And on that day, this Samaritan man who was not even necessarily looking for the Messiah realized that this man from Galilee could save him. The Samaritan man put his faith in Jesus (v19).
We give thanks for Jesus our Lord and Savior. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). It is true that if Jesus is all you have, you will realize that Jesus is all you need. Give thanks for Jesus.
Give thanks in everything
The circumstances of life can be challenging. Ask the 10 men in the story. Their skin diseases had caused their lives to be painful. They were in physical pain because of leprosy but even more than that they faced the emotional pain of having to yell, “Unclean, unclean!” when anyone came near them, to warn the others to stay away so as to not contract the highly contagious skin disease. Words to describe the condition of these men would include: discouraged, depressed, lonely, hurting, isolated, rejected, lost.
But in the midst of their suffering, these men had reason to give thanks. Jesus saw them. He came near them. He healed them.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you know that He never leaves you nor forsakes you. Even if there are storms all around you, He gives you peace in the midst of the storm. Because of that, you can give thanks in the midst of every situation and circumstance of life. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Give thanks for all things
I’ll admit it, this is the toughest one. We could summarize the four we have discussed so far in this way: Give thanks to God for Jesus in everything. That’s powerful.
Now let’s add the fifth statement: Give thanks to God for Jesus in everything and for all things. Wow.
Giving thanks for all things is more difficult than just giving thanks in the midst of all circumstances, as tough as that can be. Giving thanks for all things means actually giving thanks for the difficulties. Unless you think I am just making this one up, hear these words from the Bible: “giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
In the Luke 17 story, it would be the Samaritan man saying, “I am thankful for my leprosy.” The only way that this makes sense at all is because of Jesus, because no one in their right mind would thank God for a terminal skin disease that caused them to be isolated from family and friends for the rest of their life unless by some miracle they were healed.
But when Jesus shows up on the scene, everything changes. The reason the Samaritan man could give thanks for all things is because he could say it like this: “I am thankful for my leprosy because my leprosy caused me to meet Jesus, and Jesus changed my life.”
We can thank God for everything because we know that God is sovereign and He has a purpose for everything. We may not always know the reason but He does, and we trust Him. We may not be able to see His hand but we trust His heart. We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
God is good. He works all things for His glory. He works all things for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. Trust in Him. Give thanks to Him for everything.