By Dr. Bill Patterson
An amazing encounter took place on Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem. As he neared an unnamed village between Samaria and Galilee, 10 lepers approached him. “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” they called out from a distance (Luke 17:13).
Jesus could have healed the men immediately, but instead he asked them to show themselves to a priest. Leviticus 13 and 14 list the requirements of quarantine for lepers but also the ability to be restored to their families and communities if the priest pronounced them clean.
As the men traveled to show themselves to the priest, they were healed. However, only one of the 10 returned to Jesus to give thanks. When I read Luke 17, I ask myself, “Have I given the Lord the thanks he deserves?”
In studying the giving of thanks in the Bible, I expected to run across a large number of passages where one person thanked another, but I found not a single instance. The word thanks is common in the Bible, but when people gave thanks, they offered it to God. Very often they lifted thanks to God for what someone had done; but the giving of thanks always went beyond the gift to the source of the gift. As James wrote, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father . . .” (James 1:17).
Thanks for what? What things deserve our deepest appreciation and gratitude? I studied the life of Jesus to see why he thanked the Father. I found several different occasions, which can be categorized in three ways. Below are Jesus’ three reasons for which the Father deserves our thanks.
“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish” (John 6:11). That passage concerned the feeding of the 5,000, and Jesus gave thanks also at the feeding of the 4,000 (Matthew 15; Mark 8). In fact every time the Bible records Jesus eating, it first records him giving thanks.
Who provides your food? You may buy your groceries with the income from your job, but who gave you the strength and skill to obtain and hold your job? Who gave you the health and mental ability to perform your duties? God. He deserves our thanks for physical provisions.
Dr. T. W. Hunt capably led conferences and wrote on the topic of prayer. A humble man, Hunt became aware that he wasn’t as thankful as he should be. So he asked the Father, “Lord, make me thankful. Give me eyes to recognize and a heart to take in thanksgiving so that I can be appropriately thankful to you.” The next morning he got out his toothbrush to begin his morning ritual of brushing his teeth. He thought, “Lord, I’ve never thanked you for a toothbrush or toothpaste.” And so he did. That began a long journey of gratitude for all the things God had provided.
Just think, toothbrushes or toothpastes didn’t exist for the majority of the world’s history. The same is true for telephones, computers, modern medicines, cars, roads, airplanes, and thousands of little things which bless our lives daily. God deserves our thanks.
Jesus created this physical world (the wheat and the fish from which he fed the 5,000 and the 4,000) and yet was humble enough to thank the Father. Shouldn’t we also thank him for the physical provisions of life?
Not only did Jesus thank the Father for the physical, but also for the spiritual. Just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he lifted his eyes toward Heaven and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me” (John 11:41). Then he called Lazarus to come from the grave—and Lazarus did!
In that passage Jesus thanked the Father for answering his prayers. Think what a blessing it is that the Father has given us means by which we can go to him with our requests, and he will answer.
The speed of light is roughly 186,000 miles a second. At that speed it takes about eight minutes for the sun’s light to reach the earth. But you and I can offer a prayer, and that very instant it enters the throne room of the Father in Heaven! What a marvelous privilege. He deserves our thanks for granting to us spiritual provisions like hearing our prayers.
A missionary decided he would write down every prayer request he presented to the Father. At the end of the year he went back to his journal and found that God had answered, in a positive way, nearly 90 percent of his prayers. Astonished at both the amount of answered prayer and at his own lack of gratitude, he kept the journal several more years. Each year God answered between 87 to 90 percent of his prayers.
What a privilege to pray. God deserves our thanks.
Jesus gave thanks for physical provisions like daily bread. He also gave thanks for spiritual provisions like answered prayer. In addition he gave the Father thanks for what we might call eternal provisions.
Luke 22 tells us that Jesus served the last supper to his disciples. (Similar passages are in Matthew 26 and Mark 14.) “After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’” (v. 17-19).
I take this as being more than just thanks for the food and drink. Jesus gave thanks that the Father allowed him to sacrifice his body for us. In effect he said, “Thank you for letting me break my body for others. Thank you for allowing me to give my life’s blood.”
There is a 50-cent theological word for Jesus’ sacrifice—propitiation. Rather than remember the word, we may grasp the concept better by a hymn that Elvina Hall wrote 140 years ago:
“Jesus paid it all,
All to him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.”
What this means is that Jesus did for you and me what we could not do for ourselves. He paid the price for our sins. I suppose we will be thanking the Father for all eternity for what Jesus did for us in providing the way to Heaven by giving himself to die for our sins. No wonder the apostle Paul recalled Jesus’ sacrifice in 1 Corinthians 15. He closed out his words in that chapter by saying, “But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 57).
German soldiers detained Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsy in Ravensbrook during World War II. At times hundreds of the women prisoners had to stand in line without wearing any clothes. On one such occasion, Corrie remembered that the Romans had disrobed Jesus before nailing him to the cross. She whispered that to Betsy, who was in front of her in the line. Upon hearing her words Betsy said, “Oh, and I never thanked him.”
Don’t Leave It Out
These are some of the physical, spiritual, and eternal provisions for which Jesus thanked the Father and for which we can thank him. Not only does the life of Jesus express thanks, but the Bible consistently teaches us to thank God. Psalm 100, for instance, holds the title “A psalm for giving thanks.”
Because God made us and because we are his people, we can “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4). Further reasons for giving him thanks are listed in verse 5: “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever.”
A Sunday school teacher taught a lesson on being salt and light in the world. She asked the kids to define the word salt. Jackson said, “Salt is that stuff that makes potatoes taste bad when it is left out.”
Thanksgiving is that stuff which spoils life when it is left out. God deserves our thanks for giving us physical, spiritual, and eternal provisions.
Top Ten Biblical Reasons to Be Thankful
1. For the wonderful acts of God (1 Chronicles 16:8)
2. For God’s goodness (Psalm 100:5)
3. For his eternal love (1 Chronicles 16:34)
4. For food (Matthew 15:36; Romans 14:6)
5. For release from slavery to sin (Romans 6:17, 18)
6. For the faith of other believers (Romans 1:8; Ephesians 1:15)
7. For God’s grace (1 Corinthians 1:4)
8. For God’s Word (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
9. For the maturity and love of other believers (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
10. For everything (Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:17; Philippians 4:6)