14. Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Doing Good in Spite of Evil
Luke 17:11-19 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go your way: your faith hath made you whole.
At the end of today's gospel passage you hear how the Lord praises the man's faith. He says to the leprous Samaritan that his faith has helped him. With that the Lord Christ doesn't honor Himself for healing the leprous man but He rather gives credit to the man's faith. By saying this He challenges us to have the same confidence and faith in God as this man has, and to be sure in our faith that if we believe in the forgiveness of our sins through Christ and in eternal then we shall have it. If we believe that, God will be merciful and full of grace towards us because of what Christ has done for us. To God it seems to be important that this all gets credited to faith and not to God so that everyone understands that God can give us anything we want and need if only we have enough faith. God wants to give, but we need to have the faith to receive it.
2. The first lesson from today's Gospel passage is that God will give us everything if we ask in faith. However, if somebody doesn’t ask with the right faith, and doesn’t believe that God means well with him, he won’t receive what he has asked for. Look at what James says in his letter to the church in the first chapter: “Whoever wants something from God should not doubt or quiver and not say, “Who knows if God wants to give me that?” or “Am I worth it?” No, you shall say, “I know that what I ask of God He will gladly give to me because of Christ’s name. And if He doesn’t give it to me right now or in the way I would like to have it, He will give it to me according to what and when it seems right to Him.”
3. An inconsistent, fickle heart which doubts that it will receive anything from the Lord won’t receive anything, even though the Lord God would like to give. A fickle, inconsistent heart is like a container in which you would like to pour something, but it’s swaying and you can’t pour into it even though you want to very much --it just runs off at the sides. That’s how it is with an unbelieving, swaying heart. God would like to give to us what we need; but here we are: we act like a crazy beggar who holds out his hat for us to throw some money into, but he moves his hat around so that we can’t put anything into it. The same holds true for God: he doesn’t want to pour His goods into unstable hands so that in the end all will be lost. Imagine you hold up an empty bottle to have wine poured into but you’re so unstable in doing it that most of the wine gets spilled. Your host would get angry at you, particularly if he wants to give the wine and not charge you for it. He would say, “Leave it, do you think I want to pour this wine onto the ground?” The same holds true for a fickle, unstable heart; God can’t pour anything into it even though He would like to.
4. However, if someone holds still, God likes to give. That’s what we see in the parable about ten lepers: they stand here and call out to Jesus, “Master, have mercy on us!” They hold still and do not doubt that He will help. And so you see: as they believe, so it happens. From this we learn that we must trust in God’s goodness and not doubt in our heart, but have an unwavering faith in everything we ask God, be it health, food, happiness. God likes to give us these if they are being used for His praise and honor, and if it is good for our growth in the faith. However, sometimes He waits to give us these things to see if we continue to have unwavering faith. This is part of today’s gospel lesson: God wants us to pray in stable, unwavering faith, and that we –in Christ - do not doubt God’s will.
4. The other part of this parable is very terrible: it shows us how all of the ten had such strong faith to start out with and how nine of them turn their backs on Christ and don’t even thank Him for His goodness.
6. This example should help us to become thankful and beware of this vice called ingratitude. Our Lord God wants us to honor Him, and He deserves that we honor Him and thank Him for all His goodness toward us.
7. We be willing to should honor and thank him. It is something which doesn´t take much effort to do. What harm can it create for you to turn to God and say, “Oh Lord you have given me healthy eyes, healthy hands and feat; I thank you for this from the bottom of my heart because it's Your gift.” Also, what harm would it do if you would thank your father, your mother, your master, your wife, your neighbor after they have helped with something? It does not do you any harm, but they see that you appreciate that they have helped you. This one Samaritan from our parable reacts this way; he turns around and thanks the Lord for His goodness. It didn't cost him a penny to do so, it didn't even cost him many words --and the Lord loves it and honors it.
8. People like to receive thanks, too; it is a salve for their soul and it challenges them to help even more at another time. The heathen say: unthankfulness is a bad habit. They say that if you call someone to be an unthankful person you have really slandered him. It's true: this bad habit is widespread, and the more people deserve to be thanked, the more they receive ingratitude: the father and mother who give their all to raise good children. What to they get in return? It is very rare that a child is thankful for all the good he has received. That's from the devil. In other walks of life it is the same.
9. Beware from this evil habit. This habit makes the fountain of all goodness dry up. Because when someone has to deal with an ungrateful person, he soon isn´t interested anymore in helping this person. If someone helps another person and not only does he not thank him for it, but even throws bad gestures at him –that's evil. No one wants to help him anymore, you think what a bad person he is, you don´t want to help him anymore, and you let go of him and not have contact with him anymore so that you don´t have to help him again. And so people become unwilling to help. So that's what you get from being ungrateful.
10. And so, if you want to be pious Christians, learn to be thankful: first of all to God,our merciful father in heaven who gave us body and soul and everything we need for eternal life. After that be thankful toward your parents, friends, neighbors, and everyone who has ever helped you --and do good to them in return. If you if are not able to return the good done to you thank them at least with your words and by being friendly to them. It is only right for you to do that, and God wants you to do that, too. Alas, only a few do that. One can't expect thankfulness from the world. A proverbial saying goes like this: a helping hand is soon forgotten.
11. The young monks learn to be thankful for the smallest thing: even if someone comes and gives them a cut out feather, they learn to bow down and say thank you. It is a good custom to train the young people to be thankful toward God and other people. And even though the “Thank You!”, doesn't always come out of a genuinly thankful heart it is still good to say, “Thank You!” We read in Psalm 116:12,13: “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits towards me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.” This means, “I am going to praise and honor Him and thank Him that He deals with me in such a benevolent way!” “Yes, my dear child, I like helping you and hearing your thankful praises!” our dear Lord God will say then. Our good father, though, receives thanks only from a very few. Most persecute and condemn His word blaspheme Him and don't care that everything that they have, He has given to us in His merciful goodness. And not only do they not thank Him, but they even nail up and kill His one and only Son, the One who was given to pay the penalty for our sin. What a world this is; our Father in Heaven could easily leave us alone, forget all about us, and do nothing good for us. But no -- in His goodness He willingly helps us!
13. And so we learn from our heavenly Father not only to be thankful, but to even be willing to suffer ingratitude. This is the right way for Christians should deal with ingratitude. If we look at the non-Christians around us we find all kind of ingratitude. Look at the Greeks: there were some fine people among them who stood by their Fatherland and risked health and life for it. However, as soon as they noticed that the people didn't thank them, but rather treated them badly they became impatient, and so, as they before protected their home-country, they suddenly became the worst enemies of their country. Yes, that's how we are, that is our nature, but it is a evil nature and we should say goodbye to it, and instead become like God is,
who is at enmity with ingratitude, an evil habit. He could return our ingratitude and in return act evil toward us, but He continues to be benevolent and merciful toward anyone who needs His help.
14. If someone is a Christian, and acts like a Christian is supposed to, he will with good will towards everyone, not only receive thanks but also will suffer ingratitude. Don't worry though. Don't give up doing good even in spite of all this ingratitude. It is a Christian virtue, and a fruit of the Christian faith, to do good even in the face of absolute ingratitude, and to be patient with those whom you have helped and they remain so ungrateful toward you. You should say to yourself, “No, you can't make me angry or unhappy by your ingratitude, and you can't take my Christian joy away from me; I will suffer your crouchiness and continue to help wherever I can. You choose to be ungrateful that's okay with me -- I know of a heaven above me, and God will reward me if you don't do. That is worth more to me then your gratitude anyway. Such is called a Christian attitude and as Solomon says, “…heaping hot coals onto someone's head…”
15. The world won't teach you this art, no, they rather do the opposite and teach you to be ungrateful in return if someone is ungrateful to you. If the world doesn´t receive gratitude they think everything is lost and gone forever. However, this art you learn from our Father in heaven who lets it rain and lets His sun shine not only over the righteous who thank Him for it, but lets it rain also over the unrighteous who don't thank Him but even misuse His gifts. He could rightfully say to Himself, “I've let it rain for so many years now. These people were able to grow grain, wine, all kinds of fruits and I gave so much of everything but they are so ungrateful to me. I won't let my sun shine upon them anymore and will let them all starve to death for being so ungrateful.” However, our merciful Father in heaven is not like that. “No,” He says, “they can't anger Me with their ingratitude. Even though they won't thank Me, I will still remain a graceful God, but I'll repay the ungraceful in due time.”
16. We Christians need to learn this art of being graceful in the face of ingratitude because that's the way of Christians: they suffer everything and still won't become bitter. Only a few, though, have this kind of love; that's why only a few are true Christians. If we are true Christians, we love to do good, and help, and won't let the ingratitude of others turn us into bitter people –the world hates it if they don't receive thanks for their acts of kindness; don't act like them and let ingratitude overcome you. Dealing with them is up to God; don't worry about them. You just continue doing good and say to yourself, “He's not thankful to me? That's fine with me; quick, find me another one whom I can help. If he also doesn't want to thank you for your kindness go again to another one, and so on until you learn to say, as our Lord Jesus said, “Weren't there ten who were healed; where are the other nine?”
17. The Lord didn't get much gratitude on this occasion. However, it´s okay with Him and He's satisfied that at least one in ten returned to thank Him. He wouldn't even have asked about the other men if He wouldn't have meant to show us how much He likes it when we thank Him, and that He doesn't like it at all when people are so ungrateful. He seems to think, “Don't worry --there will come a time when we'll meet again and then I will ask you why you didn't thank me for healing you, and I will ask you why you were so ungrateful and never thanked me for giving you a body and soul and everything else you need.
18. We need to learn from the Lord´s example not to pay attention to ungratefulness. Experience teaches us --as everyone can see—that when the Lord gives us ten good years, we don't even thank Him for one. It is even more true that we misuse the best years shamelessly. No sooner than God gives us a good year in harvesting and making wine that some misers will come, buy it, hoard it, and sell it expensively much later. Others think that because the Lord God gave a good year, they can spend it in debauchery and drunkenness --with that they thank Him for His blessing. And so not even for the tenth of His blessing is He being thanked. We also need to get used to that, and not feel hurt by the ungratefulness of people, and consider it a blessing if one out of ten thanks us. The others will see what they get for being so ungrateful. The Lord God will deal with them sooner or later.
19. My dear, today we have learned from the Lord God these two things: first, we learned about God and secondly we learned about two of the most beautiful Christian virtues: a.) to be grateful and b.) be willing to suffer ungrateful people. Gratefulness we learned from the Samaritan and his example not to be found guilty of being ungrateful towards God and man. From Christ we learned that even though we do good to somebody and get ungratefulness in return we should not get irritated by this act of ingratitude, but continue doing good. As I said before: it’s an evil vice that because of the ungratefulness of some the others have to suffer not being helped in their need. If you are a Christian don’t give up doing good and being helpful. Even though nine may betray you in return for being good to them –don’t worry, and be happy about the tenth person thanking you for your help. Look, even Christ is not always being thanked for His goodness – so why should you have it better? So don’t worry, forget about the ingratitude of the nine and be happy about the gratitude of the one– it will not harm you, just like it didn’t harm Christ. The nine are harming themselves by being such ungrateful people.
20. To round it all up: we will be good Christians once we have a strong faith and trust in God’s goodness, not only being grateful people, but even being willing to suffer the ungratefulness of others. Remember that we won’t have it better than Christ Himself had it. We should be doing good towards everyone, not forgetting that out of ten there might be just one who will thank us for our help. You even might find out that exactly the one thanks you whom you expected it in the least, just like the Samaritan in our parable. May our dear God give His grace that we all straighten up and not be found among the ungrateful toward God and men. Amen