Being the 10 Percent-Humble Gratitude

Living the 10 Percent Thanksgiving 2015

 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14, NIV

Last week, we determined that we want to be found giving thanks like the ten percent. Only one leper out of ten returned to thank Jesus for His miraculous healing. However, this week’s account in Luke informs us that mere words of thanks are not enough; it is the heart behind the words that matters most. In this parable about the tax collector and the Pharisee, Jesus is teaching that humility of heart is better than good deeds accompanied by a haughty spirit.

In fact, this parable teaches that there is a wrong way to give thanks.

If we are giving thanks because we are not like other sinners; that is, not bent towards certain less favorable sins. Or, if in order to elevate our filthy rags of righteousness (see Isaiah 64:6), we thankfully condemn more noticeable targets or outright sin, then we are missing grace all together. This isn’t but for the grace of God go I mentality, this is at least I’m not doing… What a dangerous predicament to enter into.

A vacuum of humility in our lives leads to the fertile soil of hypocrisy. Consider,

Hypocrites keep up the external performances of religion only to save or gain credit. There are many whom we see every day at the temple, whom, it is to be feared, we shall not see in the great day at Christ’s right hand. 

His giving God thanks for this, though in itself a good thing, yet seems to be a mere formality. He does not say, By the grace of God I am what I am, as Paul did, but turns it off with a slight, God, I thank thee, which is intended but for a plausible introduction to a proud vainglorious ostentation of himself.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary

God’s glory is to resist the proud but give grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

Consider the parable of the prodigal son. It was the brother who had done the work diligently and faithfully that had to flee the temptation to be angered at the wayward brother’s reward. The faithful must put off the garment of pride and assumption that God only gives mercy and grace to those who look the part or have played it the longest. It is God’s grace through Jesus Christ that brings our favor. That alone secures our salvation and no works we do on earth can equate the grace that Jesus provides. Works accompany faith, and restoration follows humble confession and repentance–be it in the early years of our life, or in the later years just before arriving Home.

Another lesson from this parable: We who have been in church and within God’s grace for anytime must resist the temptation and tendency to make God’s Kingdom on earth look like anything other than God’s Kingdom in Heaven. God’s Kingdom will consist of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Further, it will consist of the last being the first. The crippled, handicapped, poor, and cast aside populace of the present will be the rulers of the future Kingdom to come. We must not welcome the well dressed and successful among our places of worship to the detriment of the poor, the weak, and the plagued with sin who may stumble into our congregations by the saving grace of God. (See James 2:1-13)

Not everyone in church should look just like you…or me!

If thanksgiving towards God has become a mere formality for us as it was for the pharisee in Jesus’s parable, then it is time to repent in humility and recognize the saving grace of God in our own needy lives. There is always gratitude to be given for God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

If we have neglected to welcome those within our community of believers who don’t look like us, then we must repent and consider what God’s Kingdom will look like in eternity. We should make our churches welcoming congregations for every tribe, tongue, nation, and social status.

Be the ten percent. Give thanks with a humble heart.

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If you want to further explore the thoughts from this post, might I recommend two books that I have read in the past that most likely helped shape some of the thoughts written above?

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges (see here)

Onward by Russell Moore (see here)

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Being the Ten Percent

Living the 10 Percent

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

(Luke 17:11-19, NIV)

Jesus performed miracles for multitudes. Yet, this story of ten men healed of leprosy warranted spotlighting in the gospel of Luke. Ten men pleaded for mercy, only one thanked Jesus for the merciful act of cleansed skin.

Often times in life we petition for acts of mercy from the Father, family, and friends to be met with the granting of our requests. How often do we return the mercy with thanksgiving once it is granted? Are we living like this leaper and being the ten percent who express gratitude? Or, are we living among the ninety percent who grab the grace and keep on going?

November provides perfect practice for thanksgiving and grateful living. As we count our blessings and practice days of gratitude may it be more than a seasonal decor, a hashtag of 31 days of gratitude captioning our social media, or a reason to gather with family. May this month remind us to be the ten percent and thank God for the blessings and grace in all circumstances.

Thanks-giving opens the door to joy-filled living. The ungrateful can quickly become the greedy. The frenzied  who don’t pause to pleasure in what is, will exhaust themselves seeking the next thing.

This month we will further explore together the topic of being the ten percent and seeking to live a life of gratitude in a culture that values gain over saying grace. After all, it is Jesus’ saving grace which ushers in our saying grace.

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

G. K. Chesterton

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Moments Bathed in Thanksgiving

I pour the water over his uplifted head. He blinks and shakes the water from his blonde hair.

Only a few weeks ago Little E would have screamed and cried at the mention of pourning water over his hair; forget laying back in the tub to wet it.

Next he surpasses my expectations as he plunges his face into the clear water. I know he must have seen Joshua blowing bubbles in the tub. Joshua is altogether unafraid of plunging face first into depths of water. He knows how to kick and splash his way safely to the edge of the pool in summer time.

Yet, even as Little E is splahing his face in the water like a mallard, I gaze in amasement at this gift from God…an unexpected grace pointing to the fulfilled wholeness of a little life in our care. It is in these graces that the daily work is rewarded. Wasn’t it only days before that I had marveled at the love between foster father and son? Emily was pushing E on the park swing and Ron kissing his puckered lips with every swing forward.

The joy of the Father and Son kiss our upturned faces when they are lifted heavenward in repentance and thanks.

May the Lord pour out His joy on us as we gather together to thank him with upturned gazes for the blessings of another year. May your tables be filled with food, family, and faithful thanks to the Giver of all good and perfect gifts.

May we bathe everyday in moments of thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Looking for the Rainbow

I should have known it was a drama storm when I saw soggy carpet in the passengers seat and water splotches on the roof of the car. I mumbled some complaints and made it out the drive when I realized I had forgotten my cell phone. “What if we break down? I don’t exactly know how much water is in the car and if it will cause car trouble?” I thought. “Ugh!” I cried as I shook my fists in the air and then turned the car around to retrieve the phone.

That is when she started praying:

“Please Father God get us to church safely.”

Now that is the reaction that I should have had instead of stubborn and proud fists flying,” I said to myself. After finding my phone under a stack of books and papers I had been reading that morning I was once again buckling up and listening to Emily lay her request before the Lord to ask Him for safe travel.

She remembers our wreck from a year ago. She knows that danger sometimes comes very unexpectedly; she knows who to call in times of need.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

~Psalm 121:1-2

We are here later than usual Lord, where will we find a parking spot? Please let it be close I don’t think I can handle a long walk with two children and a large umbrella this morning.” I silently prayed as I told the kids we should be hoping for a spot. Then it happened the third time:

Dear Lord thank you for getting us safely to church. Please help us find a parking spot.”

“Emily, thank you for praying again taking all our needs to God like He tells us to in the Bible. And you started with telling Him thank you – that is exactly what He tells us to do as well!” I said. I had read those truths in Philippians 4:6 that morning so I rattled them off to her and Joshua as we continued to search out our spot. We soon found one in a grassy area as close to an entrance as I could hope for.

As I tried my best to remain calm and gracious-not to mention dry- I struggled with the wind and the large umbrella. “How would the Proverbs 31 woman look carrying her children into church by herself in the middle of severe weather?” I remained unsure but I sincerely wanted to give that woman a piece of my mind.

The morning at church went beautifully. Someone took my nursery duty as Joshua was sick and he and I got to worship together and play on my iPhone during service. I noticed he was half listening when Pastor Willy would say “God” or “never ever,” a phrase Joshua and Emily have picked up, Joshua would look up from his playing to watch and listen more intently.

The rain poured on and on as Tropical Storm Debby conveyed she was clearly a hormonal woman that poured tear after tear all day and into the night.

Upon awakening this morning Emily came out of her room and rushed to the window and said,

“I want to see the rainbow.”

This stilled me. She awoke seeking the promises of God.

Although she couldn’t see it I told her that did not mean it was not there.

After breakfast we dressed and put on our rain-boots to survey the debris from the storm. Walking back to the house I looked up to the sky and there it was, God’s promise arched over the sun. His glory on display. His faithfulness a banner.

This rainbow was visible only through the lenses of sunglasses but perhaps that is how He intended it.

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.

~Proverbs 25:2

Emily’s prayers, her seeking the promise of God’s rainbow, these were fruit that God allowed us to see today. As we try to construct a Christian world-view for our children to reference and claim as their own they are listening and simultaneously He is teaching us far more than we could have imagined.

We should praise Him in the storm.

All images were taken by my better half, Ron. Please visit him at Raise the Risk.

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