“BUT WHERE ARE THE NINE?”
The Book of Luke records a unique event which took place sometime during the last four months before our Lord was killed. Shortly after raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee, where He came upon ten lepers (Luke 17:11,12). An amazing thing happened that day, as each of those lepers was healed by the Son of God (17:14,15).
Then, another astonishing thing took place. Of the ten who were cleansed, only one returned to thank Jesus and give glory to God. One would think that under such circumstances there surely would be an expression of thanks from all of them, but, instead a mere 10% returned to thank the Master and hear Him say, “Your faith has made you well” (17:19). As with so many other events in Jesus’ life, once you read or hear this historical account, it really sticks with you.
Just now we want to focus our attention on the Master’s question: “But where are the nine?” (17:17). Ten men were lepers, not just one. All ten lepers were in a pitiful condition and needed Jesus’ help, not just one. All ten lepers were cleansed through Jesus’ power and compassion, not just one of them. Yet, nine out of ten failed to express their thanks and give glory to God. We shake our heads in amazement, but is it really that uncommon for humans to fail to be grateful for the blessings that they receive from the hand of God?
God’s word speaks so plainly about our need to be thankful for what we have. The saints in Colosse were given this simple instruction: “. . . and be thankful …” (Colossians 3:15). We further read the charge, “Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:17,18). Just what is there for which Christians ought to be thankful?
We certainly ought to thank Jehovah for the natural and physical blessings that He showers upon us. He “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Is not the One Who “gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25) worthy of our praise and thanks? Alas, great multitudes believe that they enjoy physical blessings all because of the work of their own hands or through their own wisdom. With a full stomach, nice home, and unnumbered material possessions, the proud and worldly wonder, “Why do I need God?” Their attitude reminds us of the hogs that we used to feed when we lived on the farm. Those creatures never did look up or stop chewing when we tossed the corn in front of them. No, no thanks from either the hogs or the unappreciative, worldly minded.
We also need to express our thanks to God for His spiritual blessings. The Bible says that God has provided all spiritual blessings in the Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Through the great sacrifice of His Son, He gives us salvation (John 3:16). Through the Christ, He gives us the greatest victory, victory over Satan and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:57). Knowing that our blessings come from the Lord ought to do two things: (1) put us on our knees to give Him thanks and (2) put us on the move to obey His will.
In the human realm, we need to be mindful of all that others have done for us. We truly are debtors to those who have been our helpers in life. We owe our gratitude to those people who have assisted us in both the physical and spiritual aspects of our life. Our parents, other family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, brethren in the Lord, and the list just keeps growing. All of these need to know that we appreciate all that they have done (and maybe continue to do) for us. One message that I often saw in the past continues to stick in my mind. It consists of four words that were put on a sign and then hung on walkways over busy streets in Taiwan. The sign read “Chang shwo sye-sye,” which means, “Say thank you often.” That is a pretty simple message, but unfortunately one that is too often neglected in our time. The idea that the sign expresses is a correct one, not because it is part of the Chinese culture, but because is in harmony with what the Bible teaches.
Brothers and sisters, where are the nine? Where are those members of the congregation who had their sins cleansed by the blood of Jesus, but have now decided to live their lives without Him? Many have forgotten that they were purged from their sins (2 Peter 1:9). Some have left their first love, returning to their life of fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. Others have become entangled with man-made doctrines and now count themselves as members of denominational groups. Regardless of the reason why people have stopped faithfully following Jesus, we need to be concerned about them and show such concern by going to them and trying to show them what the Bible says about what they need to do in order to be restored to fellowship with Him (1 John 1:7-9).
Good people, “Where are the nine” during Sunday Bible study? Why should we consistently have more Christians in attendance for Sunday morning worship than we have for Bible study? If folks are physically unable to be present for the Bible study, that is understandable. Other circumstances may also prevent one from being at a Bible class, but we fail to understand why some find an extra session of study that lasts no more than forty-five minutes to be such a challenge or even a burden. Where are the nine when the saints gather for Bible study one night of the week? Why is the attendance of “mid-week” Bible classes so pitiful in some cases? Are we not grateful for the Lord’s sacrifice for us and the opportunity to study His word with our brethren in the Lord?
We sing songs of thanksgiving to our Creator. We frequently express our thanks to Him in our prayers. That is all as it should be. But, let us make sure that we thank God not only with our lips, but also by the lives that we live for Him.
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.