by Mike Durbin
PLYMOUTH, MI – There’s an old story about Rudyard Kipling, the famous British writer. At the height of his popularity, a newspaper reporter approached him and said, "Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over $100 a word."
Mr. Kipling raised his eyebrows and said, "Really, I certainly wasn't aware of that."
The reporter cynically reached into his pocket and pulled out a $100 bill, gave it to Kipling and said, "Here's a $100 bill Mr. Kipling. Now you give me one of your $100 words."
Kipling looked at the $100 bill for a moment, took it, folded it up, put it in his pocket and then said, "Thanks."
The reporter got a great word for his money. "Thanks" is certainly a big money word. It’s important to the economy of social relationships. Forgetting to say “thanks” can be costly. People who lack the social grace of gratitude are considered rude and unappreciative. A grateful spirit is something that all of us can cultivate in our lives. Giving thanks is an important part of our relationships with each other and our relationship with God.
Jesus is heading to Jerusalem in Luke 17. As he approaches one of the villages on the way, ten lepers cry out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Jesus cleanses all ten lepers of the dreaded disease as he sends them to the priests, but only one returns to say, “Thanks.” Jesus points out his gratitude and asks, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” He sends the grateful, former leper, away with the words, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.”
It is Thanksgiving in that former leper’s life. A spirit of gratitude fills his life as he literally falls at the feet of Jesus and thanks him. He’s glorifying God with a loud voice. We don’t know what he says, but it might have been something like:
“Thank you Jesus for my health!” The text does not tell us the degree to which the disease has ravished his body, but it’s gone. The man is cleansed and he’s grateful for his health. He may never have realized how important his health was until he didn’t have it the day the first spot appeared.
“Thank you Jesus for reuniting me with my family and friends!” Leprosy was such a dreaded disease that lepers were banned from their homes and forced to live outside the cities. If anyone approached them, lepers covered their lips and cried, “unclean, unclean” so people could stay away. The isolation ate away at their souls as they were cut off from everyone - especially those most precious to them. But this man is on his way home grateful that he can embrace those dearest to him. As he hugs each one, you can almost hear him say, “Thank you Jesus!”
“Thank you Jesus that I can worship with Your People again!” He never knew the pain of being separated from his spiritual family - until it happened. He tries to do the things they did together alone, but it’s not the same. He realizes just how important community is and he’s so grateful Jesus gave it back to him. Now that he can be with his faith family, he lingers longer, sings louder, and gives more as he thanks Jesus for making it all possible!
So much in this story sounds familiar in 2020: fear of a dreaded disease, isolation from loved ones, inability to gather with our spiritual family for in person worship. As Thanksgiving approaches, I hope the part that most describes you and me is gratitude. “Thanks” is still a “high dollar” word...one that never loses its value.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.