A Thankless Situation

Some days, I know what Jesus felt when only one of the nine lepers came back to thank him. Actually, his return-to-say-thank-you rate is pretty high, considering. Ten percent came back to say “Thank you for the miracle!”

For 30 years, thousands of students have passed through my classroom doors. Two have come back to thank me. Sure, the circumstances differ greatly. The lepers Jesus healed had a life-or death disease. I work with underage hostages of the educational system.

Christians get all down on the nine lepers who forgot to thank Jesus (Luke 17:11-19). Those ungrateful wretches! All happy about their healing; dancing, singing, shouting, and running straight to their long-lost families! Lost in our censure of the lepers’ lack of basic good manners, we overlook the fact that they each had influence.

Back in the day, no one recovered from leprosy. Once diagnosed, they spent their lives in lonely exile away from family, friends, business colleagues, and society as they knew it. They entered life on the fringe. Everywhere they went, they had to loudly announce the state of their health.

“Unclean! Unclean!”

Unable to work or interact with others, they scavenged for food and shelter with other lepers who had no hope.

Maybe we have the point of the story of the ungrateful lepers all wrong. #miracle #influence #fmfparty Click To Tweet

From Leper to Influencer

I get it. Only one percent seemed grateful. The only grateful leper happened to be a Samaritan. Maybe Jesus’ reaction had more to do with his despair about the state of the Jewish nation and their overall forgetfulness about the goodness of God than a lesson in etiquette. But I digress.

Have you ever thought about the influence of the ungrateful lepers? I'm not Jesus, but as a teacher, I understand just a little bit what he must have felt like. #influence #teacher #miracle #leper #love

Nine lepers seemed ungrateful, but their reentry into Jewish society didn’t go unnoticed. They had influence. Anyone who experiences healing, whether dramatic or mundane, has influence. They each had a story—one they most likely told over and over again as family and friends gathered around to see the miracle for themselves.

I get it. I understand the quirky smile I imagine Jesus had on his face when the Samaritan ran back to praise God. The foreigner set the good example of faith, but the nine mannerless men would change from the outside in.

As they lived with their miracle and sat inside their new skin, they would realize that it wasn’t the physical healing that mattered. Jesus made them feel pure again—from the inside out. Jesus made them feel like somebody who could do something with a redeemed life.

The Statistics of Influence

Some people think teaching seems like a thankless task. But teachers live for the lightbulb moments, the high-fives, and the quiet statement of success. We know our influence lingers on in a sense of confidence and understanding that love shrinks the world.

Above all, we want our kids to know that they matter. Their stories matter, their voices matter, and one day, the way they make other people feel will really matter.

Those two kids who thanked me years later them glossed over the subjects that I taught them. They thanked me for the way I made them feel. They confessed to being difficult, and they thanked me for loving them through their rough exterior. Even if only .001% of my students ever come back and thank me, I’m ok with that statistic.

That quirky smile on my face when my kids run off excited about something they’ve accomplished means I know I’ve done something right. They learned the lesson. They are loved.

This post is part of the Five-Minute Friday quick write hosted by Kate Moutang. Join us each Thursday night on Twitter (#FMFParty) for fun and fellowship, then grab a pen and start writing when the prompt goes live!

If you’re interested in a writing challenge for February, check out the #write28days challenge for bloggers! We’d love to have you join us as we cheer each other on through a blogging challenge.

Join us for a 28-day blogging challenge! #amwriting #blogger


    1. You caught me. Most of my ‘five-minute’ posts take more like 15 minutes and a whole lot of thinking and writing in my head before my fingers hit the keyboard.

  1. And wasn’t the dancing and singing and pure out joy gratitude? I hope God sees me live more of a life displaying gratitude than saying the words… but maybe I’m wrong.

    I do love the perspective you drew from!

    1. I think you’re on to something–for those of us who like words of affirmation, the thank you is nice. For those who like acts of service, living out our gratitude is key. It’s a good thing God understands ALL the love languages!

  2. Anita, this is an intriguing perspective about the cleansing of the lepers. I love the soul reminder these words gave me: “Jesus made them feel pure again—from the inside out. Jesus made them feel like somebody who could do something with a redeemed life.” Amen! And I’m with Susan in feeling somewhat awed you could write such a well reasoned article in five minutes. Well done! 🙂

    1. Guilty of taking more than 5 minutes (see my response to Susan’s post). My wish for myself for my students is that they understand that Jesus lives in me and that his love is bigger and better and more life-changing than anything I could ever offer.

  3. I never really thought of the story of the 10 lepers from this perspective before. I know as a Mom, I love seeing my kids joyfully using something I have given them. So, I agree gratitude can be shown in many ways. Another way my children show gratitude is in their remember when stories. I love hearing what activities we have done before that they really loved participating in. I hope you have a great weekend!

    1. I love those ‘remember-when stories,’ too! (I visited your blog and tried leaving a comment, but was unable to do so. My only choice was to sign in to Google, and your site wouldn’t even take that log in :/ ).

  4. i love this one anita:) great post! after i wrote mine, i tho’t of 1000 ways i could have been more concise! ugh! i think i’ll be writing more on the topic. we were both taught and challenged how to write 3 minute testimonies in our Bible study of either how were b/c Christians in the first place, or how GOD brought us to a new understanding of how the Gospel affected our lives. it has had an interesting effect on all of us. It forced us to get to the point of our stories and it reminded us of some exciting things GOD has done in our lives! It has started the new year off to a good start for us with the focus on what GOD did, not us. another wya to encourage our gratefulness. thanks anita. i’m looking forward to the 28 day challenge:)

  5. What an interesting perspective on this story. I’ve always heard it preached from the angle of ungratefulness. But you’re right; those former lepers would have had great influence in their communities if/when the realized the extend of what Jesus had done for them.

    I loved your comment about teachers living for the lightbulb moments. I’m not paid to teach, but almost nothing makes me more excited than when someone “gets” it!

  6. I’m with Susan – that was great for a 15 minute post. I love the quirky smile part. You have to get your reward, like Jesus did, from knowing you have changed people from the inside out. If they never come back to thank you – you still know you are right where you need to be. Loved it!

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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