If we study Luke 17:11-19 carefully, we will find a powerful object lesson that will stay with us for life. Let’s look at the account. “As he [Jesus] was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’”

In Bible times, the word “leprosy” was much more generalized than it is today. It referred to a number of infectious skin diseases. It is difficult for us to know whether these people had what we would call “Hansen’s Disease” or whether it was some other type of skin disease.

When people have leprosy, the infected parts of their bodies lose their sense of touch. They no longer feel pain. This may not sound bad, but in reality it is devastating. Suppose you reach for a pan on the stove. You grab the hot metal handle. If you are healthy, you would immediately drop the pan and put your burned hand under cold water; you would watch as your hand got red from the burn. If you had leprosy, when you grabbed the pan, you would feel nothing. You would be oblivious to the damage being done to your hand. Only when you put the pan down would you notice that your hand was so severely burned that the handle took a great deal of your skin with it. But you felt nothing.

In  biblical days, a person with leprosy was an outcast (Lev. 17:45, 46). Lepers were shunned by society. They were kept in isolation, and everywhere they went, people stayed away from them. Once diagnosed with this disease, a leper could not hug his wife or children. Lepers could not shake hands with other people. They could not go to the temple to worship. This is why the 10 lepers formed a group (all they had was each other) and why there were both Samaritans and Jews in the group. It is also why we read that “they stood at a distance.”

Can you imagine the scenne? I suspect people were surprised that Jesus even bothered to acknowledge these men. Jesus saw them not as diseased and unclean but as men trapped in diseased and unclean bodies. The record of their conversation isn’t extensive. Jesus just tells them to go and show themselves to the priest. He sends them to the priest because the priest was the only one who could declare them “clean” again and free them to return to normal existence. Jesus was telling the men that they were healed, not that they should go get their healing confirmed.

Following Jesus’ command required the lepers to have a great deal of faith because there was no immediate evidence of healing. It was while they were going to the priest that they noticed that their leprosy was gone. Imagine the scene as they stopped to check each other to see if they had all been healed. They must have cried out with joy. They may have wept, or laughed, or done a little dance. They were so grateful that they no longer had leprosy! They were more grateful than you and I can understand. 

However, only one leper directed his gratitude to the Healer. Only one returned to Jesus to say “Thank you.” And that is one lesson we can learn from this story: it is right and appropriate to give thanks to the one who blesses you.


We will never know for sure what these men were thinking. There may be several reasons why the nine did not return.

Maybe they were afraid to believe. The evidence was clear, but they may have been hesitant to believe it because it seemed too wonderful to be true. Maybe they intended to say “Thank you” at a later time.

Maybe they considered the healing to be coincidental. After all, Jesus hadn’t touched them; He just told them to go and see the priest. Maybe it was just a coincidence that they experienced a healing after talking to Jesus.

Maybe they felt that they had earned the healing. After all, they were the ones who decided to give Jesus a try. They were the ones who cried out. They were the ones who acted in faith by following Christ’s simple command to go to the priest.

Have you and I forgotten to thank God for His blessings to us? How many times have we received but not believed? How many times have we thanked our “lucky stars” rather than thanking the Lord? How many times have we felt we have “earned” the good things we have?

Perhaps when we think about it, we are really not much different than the nine lepers. We receive countless blessings large and small, yet we often take them, enjoy them, and never thank God for them.


We can all develop an attitude of gratitude. Here are six pointers that will help us become more grateful:

1. We can learn the difference between appropriate gratitude and counterfeit gratitude. True gratitude focuses on the greatness of the giver rather than on the gift. True gratitude leads us to love God more for who He is rather than for what He has done.

2. We can take time to list the many “non-material” gifts that we have received from God. Think about the many times He has delivered us from spiritual dangers such as temptation, distress, and discouragement, often unbeknownst to us. He has delivered us from the “close calls” we survived, the sicknesses from which we’ve recovered, the dangers we have avoided. We can practice expanding our definition of “blessing.”

3. We can recognize the greatness of our sins. If we don’t understand the depth of our wickedness, we will never appreciate the richness of God’s grace.

4. We can think often about heaven and what it holds for us. We can lift our eyes and see what is ahead. Imagine the day when you cross from life to life eternal. Imagine the wonder and joy of the embrace of Jesus. Imagine what a sinless world will be like. Imagine a life where tears and sorrow will no longer be present. Imagine a place where all wrongs will be righted and all faithfulness will be rewarded.

5. We can make it a daily habit to recognize that even in this life, God has been exceedingly generous. Look around you and take note of all you have. Spend a few minutes thinking of five material blessings that may often go unnoticed. Look at your possessions in a new way— your new suit, your garden patch, your breakfast—are these not gifts?

6. Consciously seek to balance your thanking with your asking. Richard Baxter, a Puritan, once wrote: “When men accustom themselves to have ten words or twenty of confession and petition for one of thanksgiving, and ten thoughts of sins and wants and troubles, for one of mercies, they starve thankfulness and turn it away” (Christian Directory, 145). Every morning and evening, make it a habit to count your blessings and thank the One who gives the blessings.


The story of the ten lepers is one we should never forget. May it encourage each of us to express thanks to God.

General Conference Ministerial Association