Thanksgiving Cannot Be Commanded.
Text: Luke 17:11-19.

In the miracle healing of our Lord Jesus, ten lepers were cleansed at His Word. Nine were Jews and one was a Samaritan. The Jews were of the Chosen Race but the Samaritan was a stranger, an alien and an outcast. Though despised by the Jews he was doubly blessed by the Lord. The last shall be the first. Why? Because while the nine Jews clean forgot their Doctor the moment they were healed, it was the Samaritan who returned to give thanks.
What lessons can we learn from this story?

(I) Familiarity breeds contempt.
Jesus being also a Jew, these nine Jewish lepers took Him for granted. Jesus said on an earlier occasion, “No prophet is accepted in his own country” (Luke 4:24 ). A Cantonese proverb is “Local ginger is not hot.” A Singapore pastor is lightly esteemed in Singapore.
Jesus did not summon the ungrateful nine to give thanks. He let them go their way. Thanksgiving cannot be commanded. Once there was a father who demanded his nine sons to sign that they would love him in his old age. But love must spring spontaneously from the heart.

On the other hand the nine Jews who were cleansed but forgot their Master might relapse. Ingratitude, says Shakespeare, is like the biting winter’s wind. In the warning Jesus gave to the healed 38-year paralytic not to sin any more lest a worse thing come to him, is there no lesson for the ungrateful?

(II) How should we give thanks?
A. With our lips.
The Samaritan glorified God with a loud voice. At a Tuesday night prayer meeting a brother healed of cancer thanked the Lord with deep feelings which moved the whole congregation. This stirred us to praise the Lord together, which added more glory to God. The Lord is well pleased to hear our praises. “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). Often we are heard to speak horizontally, criticising one another. What we need is to speak vertically, praising Him in the highest.

B. On our knees.
The Samaritan “fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks.” This is full submission. This is worship. When we come to Church let us worship the Lord in fullest submission, giving our hearts and not only our knees, to Him. But there are those who show no reverence by the way they sit in Church and the little attention they give to the sermon.

C. With our hands.
Exodus 23:15 says, “and none shall appear before me empty.” Again what we give cannot be commanded. It must come from the heart. It must come from a heart that has experienced the forgiveness of sin. Jesus tells the story of two debtors. One owes $500 and the other $50. Both cannot pay back to the creditor. So the creditor forgives them. Jesus asks: Of the two debtors who loves the creditor more? Answer: The one who owes more. How much do you owe the Lord?

One day a lady brought $2500 to the Church. Not expecting so much from her we wanted to return it to her. But she insisted she knew what she was doing. We concluded it was her love gift to her Lord. She gave much because she was forgiven much. She had passed from death into life. She was grateful for her salvation.

D. With our body.
And that is not a burnt whole offering of a dead animal but “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service.” Peter having denied the Lord three times and being forgiven, gave himself now totally to the Lord. He gave himself to be a pastor of the flock. He, like Paul, gave him-self a living sacrifice to the end. He also died a martyr’s death. From our midst we have seen in Jonathan Lee, a living sacrifice offered for the slum children of Cambodia by living and suffering together with them. He must have been forgiven much. So he loves much. So has his young friend Joon Woo, who, despite the sores erupting all over his body, persists to keep Jonathan Lee company. He suffers for Jesus’ sake.

Thanksgiving to God cannot be commanded. It must spring from the heart that makes interaction with our lips, hands, knees, and our whole body. Amen.

The Philosophy of Thanksgiving
Text: Psalm 103:2

Giving thanks to God is a characteristic of Christians. The first thing in the morning that we do is to thank God for His safe keeping in the night. We say “grace”, i.e. “thanks” before our three meals. When we go to bed at night, we take time to thank the Lord for that day’s provision. For this reason, Paul exhorts: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

What is the philosophy of thanksgiving?

According to Psalm 103, thanksgiving should, first of all, arrest our forgetful-ness. “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (verse 2). How human it is to forget – not the wrong of others, but their good! And as to God’s goodness? How many a vow uttered in groaning illness, in the throes of writhing pain, in dark moments of grim danger or haunting fear are forgot-ten on the morrow of deliverance! How many a Calvinistic Christian is obliviously slumbering in his armchair of salvation! Forgetfulness of God’s mercies is a sin of omission.

Secondly, thanksgiving is a rebuke to the ungrateful. These are the people who take the blessings of God for granted. These belong to the “familiarity breeds contempt” class. Once, there were ten lepers cleansed as they were on their way to see the priests according to Jesus’ word (Luke 17:11-19). Only one, a Samaritan who was an alien, returned to thank the Lord at His feet. “Were there not ten cleansed?” asked the Saviour, “but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” Ingratitude occupies not a few pews in every church today! It seems she is harboured in the hearts of old-timers more than in the newly-converted. The ungrateful serve the Lord with their pout than with their purse. Truly, none of us can escape from the sin of unthankfulness. Let us heed the Chinese saying, “Let those who drink the water think of its source.”

Thirdly, thanksgiving should isolate the downright insolent, nominal members of the church. These are they who have grown rich and powerful under the aegis of devout parents, like Esau under the benignity of his father Isaac. These, who have never thanked the Lord from the heart on an occasion for thanksgiving, demand rather that the Lord thank them! What travesty of Christian logic! Once, a poor country pastor approached a big town elder for a donation to his church building fund. Because this servant of God did not flatter and fawn, the self-esteeming elder told him off, “Here’s $50, for that’s all you are worth. Take it or leave it.” Did the elder realise that in so doing, he was not insulting man but God? “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me” (Luke 10:16). “Thus saith the LORD, Letnot the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23, 24).

Thanksgiving is the delight of the humble. He worshipfully brings his gift into the Lord’s storehouse. He also hears the Lord pronounce blessings upon his children and children’s children since he trusts the Lord with godly fear and has striven to keep His covenant and commandments. Since the day that the Lord gave him a job, he has not forgotten to budget the tithe first for his God. He gives thanks not once a year only, but upon every occasion of receiving goodness at His hand.