The Problem with Success
Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Luke 17:17
I’ve been through multiple cycles of relapse and attempted recovery. In the misery of each relapse, I lamented my destructive behavior, made some attempt to change, and then, as life returned to normal, I grew complacent. I sought God’s help while in crisis, but as soon as the crisis blew over, I turned from God, back to the behavior that created the crisis in the first place. I was a slow learner.
Today’s passage tells a somewhat similar story. In the narrative, Jesus encountered ten lepers, who in sickness and need, cried out to Jesus. They believed that Jesus could help them, and so they desperately pursued him. Christ told them to go to the priest to be declared clean and as they obeyed, all ten were healed.
In being healed, these men were granted a radical new life. Only one of them however, turned back to thank Jesus, who asked, Where are the other nine? All ten men had the same experience. They all needed Jesus. Once the nine got what they wanted though, they no longer needed him. They had stuff to do and so, they went their ungrateful way.
This is where many of us find ourselves. We believe in God and so, we pray when we need something, but we don’t truly follow Christ. When life falls apart, we beg for help. When life returns to normal, we go our own way, forgetting about the one who gave us life.
It’s natural to turn to God for help when we’re hurting. It is unnatural for most of us however, to seek God in our success. In our pain and suffering, we vow to follow God forever. In our success, we grow apathetic and complacent, drifting back to doing things our way.
The lesson from the passage, is that gratitude is the answer to our success problem. Where we have need, we should seek God and his will. Where we seem to be enjoying success, we should continually thank God. When success threatens to turn us from God, gratitude keeps our eyes on him.
Luke doesn’t say that the nine got their leprosy back, but in abandoning Jesus, they relapsed back into a life of following themselves. If we want faith, life, and recovery, then like the one leper, we must continually choose to be grateful for what he’s done for us.