Robert's Ruminations

The thoughts of Revd. Robert, Minister for Emmanuel, Ilfracombe

Showing Gratitude

As the story goes, the English writer Somerset Maughan had a problem. He had earned a good sum of money from his Spanish royalties on his novels, but the law forbade him to take any of the money out of the country. Maughan decided to use the money to pay for a luxury holiday. He chose one of the best hotels and dined extravagantly every evening. Nothing was too costly. When he felt satisfied that he had spent most of the money that was due to him, he told the manager that he would be leaving the following day. He asked for the bill.

Instead of going off to get the bill, the manager stood where he was and beamed at his distinguished guest. Maughan was confused. The manager said to him: "It has been an honour having you in our hotel. You have brought much publicity to us while you have been here. We would like to show our gratitude. Therefore, there is no bill."


When we don't expect it, gratitude can be very confusing! When we do expect it and it isn't shown, we are often left feeling bewildered and disappointed. There is a great deal of awkwardness surrounding gratitude. We know from experience that doing some people a favour is to risk losing their friendship. Mark Twain put it bluntly when he wrote: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. That is the principal difference between a dog and a man." Why bother getting hurt by doing some people favours? Why do some people treat you as a leper after you have helped them?

When Luke tells the story of the ten lepers that are healed by Jesus it isn't surprising that the only one who shows gratitude is a foreigner, the Samaritan. All the other nine run away and forget all about who it was that healed them. They were free of their disease and that was all that mattered. It was an outsider who shows his faith in God and his gratitude to God's servant, Jesus. All ten lepers experience healing, but only one turns on his tracks and begins to shout in praise of God and makes Jesus his new destination. When the Samaritan returns to thank Jesus, the absence of the other nine leaves Jesus hurt and puzzled. He asks, "Were not all ten made clean?" It's as if Jesus is beginning to doubt whether all ten could have been healed since the response is so shabby. He checks his arithmetic. The ingratitude of the nine makes him wonder. What makes people that way? Why do the nine who are healed now treat Jesus as the leper and stay away from him? Why is saying thank you such a problem?

Probably the nine lepers were appreciative of what Jesus had done; we don't know, however, why they never bothered to show their gratitude to Jesus. We can only look to ourselves to ask why we are often reluctant to say thank you. Sometimes it is because we resent the fact that we needed help in the first place; sometimes we are suspicious of good Samaritans and wonder about their motives. Whatever the reason for our own ingratitude, we know that it diminishes us and those who help us. Ingratitude makes the bill for helping people hard to pick up. But there are times when we must be thankful to those around us who offer us even the smallest act of kindness. It’s not wrong to say ‘thank you’ and yet we live in a world which seems all ‘me, me, me’. As we go through this life, all of us are going to find ourselves in places where we need to thank someone for help, guidance, support, you name it. When we get to that point, don’t let us be backward in coming forward and show our gratitude to those who offer us help.


Choosing to love
Vision of the future


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Thursday, 23 May 2019

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