"Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine." (Luke 17:1-19)
One of the least pleasing features in human relations is the reluctance of people to be grateful for a kindness done them. They find it hard to say thanks even when they know the word should be said and at once. A feature writer has a question in a press interview "Are you a giver or a taker?" The answers are often inconclusive but always there is the sense that to be a giver is the preferable and proper response.
We know some who are generous in their treatment of others and those who take generosity for granted.
The incident we have here, the curing of the ten lepers and the and the ingratitude of nine is an apt illustration of an ingratitude ingrained in such behaviour. And the one who came back to speak his gratitude was a despised Samaritan. While the men of the story are described, ingratitude is not a characteristic more marked in race, sex, age, friendship or relationship. It is a trait of our humanity.
Jews cited Joseph and Absolam as good and bad examples of how children should treat their parents. The one respected Jacob his father; the other broke his father's David's heart. They would show them where Absolam dishonoured his father, spat their contempt at the spot, and then tell them of Joseph.
We have Jesus as our example, for He respected his parents and when his mother was widowed he took the care of mother and family. His brothers were among Jesus' most faithful followers and one of them, came to be called James the Just. He was chairman of the first even Christian Council as head of the Church at Jerusalem. Tradition has it that he was killed by the Scribes and Pharisees and that he was the author of the General Epistle of James.
His closeness to Jesus is evident in the epistle for its basic teaching is similar to that of the sermon on the Mount, and its emphasis on behaviour with the premise, the test of a real faith in God is that it shows in an appropriate way of life.
A kindness has no expectations of a response when it is often a spontaneous act to help someone. To be kind is to recognise the value of human relationships, that living is sharing. But to live is to know that there are always the opposites - good and bad, kindness and unkindness. In our media enlightened age we are well acquainted with both, though the imbalance, bad news is news, means that we are horrified by much of what we see and hear of the depravity of humanity. And then piercing the gloom of depression and despair is the evidence that the good are everywhere bringing succour to the suffering, food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, shelter to the homeless and hope to the hopeless.
The Christian ethic with its concentration on the virtues of decency, honesty, generosity and sympathy remains for many the basis for a good society. It is necessary then for all who respect such values to set an example in a society which for many has levels far below what is needed to ensure that its citizens treat each other with the respect which is essential if people are to live safely together in an environment, peaceful, prosperous and pleasurable for all its people.
A Utopian dream, may be a critics response to this scenario, but it is the philosophy for living which is a solid foundation on which to build and it involves everyone in contributing to the well being of their country from the beginning to the end of their stay in it.
We have reason to be thankful that, we live where, whatever our problems, they could be minimal to those in so many other places. Most of us have the capacity to be givers to those whose circumstances compel them to be takers. That is the way for us to change their lot to a happier one.
We have to learn to turn all good gifts to good purposes; to use goods and benefits to enable us to be givers; to do good and to distribute, for with such sacrifice God is well pleased.
Rev. Canon Dr. S.E. Long