There is an African tribe that expresses gratitude in a peculiar way. They sit quietly for a period of time in front of the hut of the person to whom they are grateful. It pictures the posture of genuine believer. Should we not, as Christians, sit before the throne of God where we rightfully belong giving Him the thanks which He rightfully deserves?
Gratitude emerges from humility. Surely, this tribe recognizes the truth behind that phrase. Sitting outside a hut is a lowly act, as you can imagine. It said to the giver, “You had compassion on me,” which is certainly true of the Giver or our salvation.
In the gospel of Luke, there is a story that reminds me of this. We know it as the story of “The Ten Lepers.” However, after reading it, you might think of a more appropriate title, like “The Grateful One.”
On the way to Jerusalem [Jesus] was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Lk. 17:11-19)
Leprosy symbolized sin in the Old Testament. According to the Law, those who were found with leprosy were cast outside the camp after an examination by the priest. They were not allowed to enter again until they were cleansed. This is why the ten lepers “stood at a distance” lifting their voices so that Jesus would hear them (Lk. 17:12). “Master, have mercy on us,” they shouted (Lk. 17:13).
Having compassion, Jesus told them to “go and show yourselves to the priests” (Lk. 17:14). Resubmitting themselves to the examination of the priests would have been an act of faith since they were currently leperous. Maybe the reputation of Jesus’ power convinced them that they would be healed. So, they obeyed. And, as they left to see the priests, all ten lepers were cleansed.
There was one, however, who “turned back, praising God with a loud voice,” expressing gratitude, after seeing that Jesus healed him (Lk. 17:15). He gave thanks in the most humbling of ways. “He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet” (Lk. 17:16). Mind you, lepers were not allowed to go near those who were clean. But, with his leprosy now removed, nothing prevented him from drawing near to his Savior. He fell to the feet of Jesus, put his nose to the ground, and lifted his praises up.
Jesus’ response is shocking. Seeing the gratitude of the one leper against the ingratitude of the other nine, He says, “Rise and go your way,” the Savior said, “your faith has made you well” (Lk. 17:19). Don’t miss this: Gratitude indicated saving faith. The one grateful was cleansed of leprosy, both in body and in soul.
Put all of this in perspective. The sinner recognized his distance from God and his need for mercy. Upon receiving it, he drew near to the Giver and worshipped from a regenerated heart abounding in thanksgiving. Humility unleashes gratitude. It positions us to see the grace of God.
Humility equips us with spiritual vision to behold the wondrous gifts God has given. Andrew Murray, a theologian of the past, said, “Humility comes when, in the light of God, we have seen ourselves to be nothing, having consented to part with and cast away self to let God be all.” It is perceiving the light of God in a way that diminishes the darkness of self.
There is another people group in West Africa called the Masai tribe. They too understand the connection between humility and gratitude. When they desire to say “thank you,” they touch their forehead to the ground saying quite literally, “My head is in the dirt.”
Are you grateful person? It not, maybe it because your head is too high. Maybe, you need to put your head in the dirt to see the wonder of God. Until you eat dirt, you will not kill pride. Humility unlocks gratitude by giving us spiritual vision for the gifts of God.