Luke 7:47 - For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.
During the holidays and especially Thanksgiving, Americans generally talk about all the things they are thankful for. They will often thank God for their family, their health, and their prosperity. However, I'm not so sure that these are the things that bring us the greatest gratitude. Oftentimes, we take our seemingly greatest treasures for granted. The longer I am a Christ-follower, the more I believe that true thankfulness is more often born out of lack or a sense of loss rather than an abundance of prosperity. The Pilgrims (or more accurately the Puritans) who settled in Plymouth knew this all too well. William Bradford, one of the two main leaders of the newly formed Mayflower Compact government, referred to the first four months after landing at Plymouth in November of 1620 as "The Starving Time". Many were lost to disease brought on by malnourishment and exposure during this harsh winter. Only when the local Indians helped the Pilgrims several months after their landing did they begin to prosper. Without their help (through God), many more if not all would have surely perished.
There are many instances in the Gospels where Jesus shows us how desperate people sought Him out to meet their most desperate needs. in so doing, their expressions of gratitude were striking. Two such examples are in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus was invited to the house of Simon the Pharisee to dine with him in Luke the seventh chapter. A local harlot heard that the Lord would be there so she mustered up courage and brought undoubtedly her most prized possession to lavish on Jesus -- an alabaster vial of costly perfume. The scripture tells us that she humbly positioned herself behind the Lord, anointing His feet and wiping them with her hair (Luke 7:37-38). Because of Simon judging Jesus' knowledge of who was touching Him, the Lord spoke a short but profound parable lesson regarding depth of gratitude (Luke 7:40-43). By using, for example, the two amounts forgiven by the moneylender, one large and one small, Jesus was able to help Simon understand that the size of the burden of sin will often translate to the degree of thankfulness (Luke 7:47). However, burdens of sin are more consequential in the eyes of man than in the eyes of a just God. Man judges by appearance so therefore the more glaring sins strike disdain and disgust in the hyper-religious. In God's eyes, sin is sin regardless the length of someone's resume' of disobedience to the commands of God. Clearly, Jesus was stating that because of the woman's glaring sin, this gave her the perspective that Simon was not afforded. And with revelation of who she was, the wayward woman was able to experience remorse, and then repentance, and ultimately restoration as she rejoiced in her salvation. Her eyes were opened by the wisdom of God and the spirit of understanding that allowed her to first see spiritually and then respond with a heart of thanksgiving.
Probably a more demonstrative example of the depth of gratitude in those whom the Lord ministered to is shown to us through the story of the ten lepers that sought out Jesus for healing. We are told in Luke 17:12 that the ten stood at a distance, crying out for mercy from the Lord. The distance they put between themselves and Jesus was the result of two different laws. According to the Jewish Talmud, lepers were not allowed to be less than 30 feet away from healthy folk, and as Samaritans they were not permitted to speak or to interact with Judeans (Christ, of course, was from the lineage of David of Bethlehem, a prominent Judean city). Jesus told them to "go" and show themselves to the priest, and as they were en route to do so they were all miraculously healed (Luke 17:14). We are told that one of them was so overwhelmed that he came back and threw himself at Jesus' feet with deep gratitude (Luke 17:16). Were the other nine ungrateful by not returning? That was the Lord's question in verses 17 and 18: Then Jesus answered and 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?" In the case of the grateful leper who was cleansed, he was obviously guided by the revelation of what had transpired and was likewise overwhelmed with a heart of thanksgiving. We can easily surmise that this man had been an outcast for years, very much like the living dead. He understood the depth of his separation and also understood the significance of his healing. His lack or loss of health lead to his near death. His restoration overflowed with extreme thanksgiving for that which he thought was gone forever. Similarly today, we can only imagine those who are miraculously healed of HIV/AIDS as they cry out to God. Too often, we only think about our American or western cultures when we think of these suffering. However, God is moving in a mighty way in Africa and healing many as He healed these lepers. We can only imagine the rejoicing and the gratitude as families are restored once again. Where there was no hope, now hope springs to new heights for the afflicted.
The depth of gratitude and thanksgiving will always be born out of a depth of revelation of what is lacking in our lives, or more poignantly what we have lost. The Pilgrims learned the meaning of thanksgiving once they were delivered from the harsh winter of 1620-21. Their trust in God, and later that of the Indians, allowed them to survive a harrowing time of colonization of present day New England. When the Mayflower returned to England in April 1621, not one of the surviving colonists returned. Through the trials of that painful winter they had become grateful for their new home, embracing their new lives with hope and thanksgiving. Biblically, we are shown in Luke that the "letting go" of how others might view us is paramount as shown in Jesus' examples. We must not let our past lives exclude us from God's grace. For some of us, our painful histories can be mighty catalysts that can open our eyes to His love and ultimately fill our hearts with deep gratitude. Some, like Simon, may face the liability of being blinded by their so-called "goodness". However, God will reveal Himself to all who would but call upon His name. Are you going through a "starving time" in your life? Rejoice, for the miracle is in sight. For as we recognize our need, He will fill it and make us overflow with gratitude for His abounding grace!
Lord Jesus, we are so grateful for Your grace upon our lives. We ask You for more revelation of the depth of Your deliverance from our sin and more understanding of Your deep love for us to make us white as snow. Thank You Lord for Your great sacrifice on our behalf. We give You all the praise and all the glory. In Your Name, Amen!
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