The biblical account of the 10 lepers in Luke 17:11-19 unfolds a powerful narrative, showcasing the life-changing potential of a thankful heart. While nine of the lepers remain ambivalent, it is the foreigner, a Samaritan, who exemplifies true gratitude. This story, a launchpad for personal discovery, has led to a conviction that gratitude is not just a virtue but an essential spiritual discipline.

Gratitude as a Health Benefit

Gratitude is not just an emotion; it is an essential component of good health. “Feeling it is only half the equation,” said Philip Watkins, a professor of psychology at Eastern Washington University and the author of Gratitude and the Good Life. Watkins emphasizes that both feeling and expressing gratitude are integral to reaping its full benefits.

Studies show that gratitude reduces depression, lessens anxiety, lowers the risk of heart disease, relieves stress and improves sleep. Harvard happiness researcher Shawn Acor even considers gratitude as the number one ingredient in happiness.

Gratitude in Spirituality

Beyond its health benefits, gratitude is deeply intertwined with spirituality. The book of Psalms is packed with distinct life circumstances where gratitude is owed to God. In chapter 100, we are told to “Enter His gates with Thanksgiving…” The very act of thanksgiving is woven into the fabric of heaven’s culture, and gratitude is viewed as an act of worship.

Ellen White highlights the communal impact of one leper’s gratitude: “For the sake of this one man, who would make a right use of the blessing of health, Jesus healed the whole ten” (3T 180). This is wonderful news as when one makes the right use of their blessings, Jesus can expand them tenfold! Consider the exponential impact of fostering gratitude within our church congregations and school classrooms. Gratitude becomes a catalyst for relational development, enriching marriages and fostering a positive community spirit. Have you ever tried to be critical of someone you are grateful for?

Danger of Ingratitude

Notice in Rom. 1:20-23 how gratitude to God is a theological kingpin and cornerstone. Remove gratitude and the spiritual Jenga tower collapses and comes crashing down. Gratitude and pride are inversely proportionate, and ingratitude is linked directly to the rise of pride.

The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary states, “unwillingness to give thanks to God for His love and goodness toward men is one of the causes of corruption and idolatry. Ingratitude hardens the heart and leads men to forget the Being to whom they are unwilling to express thankfulness” (volume 6, page 479).

Gratitude as a Moral Imperative

The narrative of the 10 lepers is regarded as a historical event, distinct from a parable. The ratio of ingratitude to gratitude stood at 10:1, a fact that sends shivers down the spine. The realization that 100 percent of “God’s faithful people” were ungrateful is both astonishing and disconcerting. Remarkably, it was a Samaritan who demonstrated gratitude during this historical account.

Neuroscientist Glenn Fox has dedicated his life to studying gratitude—How it improves our resilience, lowers stress, and boosts overall health. He is an expert on the ability of gratitude to help us through tough times. His studies state, “The researchers found that grateful brains showed enhanced activity in two primary regions: the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). These areas have been previously associated with emotional processing, interpersonal bonding, and rewarding social interactions, moral judgment, and the ability to understand the mental states of others.” Fox goes on to explain that gratitude is connected with morality and human dignity. (

Gratitude becomes a guardrail against apostasy and idolatry, as seen in Deuteronomy 8. Acknowledging that everything is a gift becomes an antidote to pride, fostering humility and gratitude.

A Call to Embrace Gratitude

In a world fraught with challenges, the benefits of gratitude are clear: increased happiness, better health, and improved spirituality. The call to embrace gratitude is not just a personal journey but a communal responsibility. As individuals, communities, and even church leaders, the challenge is to foster and express gratitude liberally. In doing so, we fulfill a divine desire for healthier, happier and more faithful interactions. Gratitude, as a transformative force, is an invitation to a more enriched and purposeful life.

Cultivating Gratitude in Daily Life

Practical ways to cultivate gratitude include:

  • maintaining a gratitude journal,
  • counting blessings,
  • writing thank-you cards,
  • and engaging in prayer meetings with dedicated praise time.

N James is the pastor of the Custer / Hot Springs church district in South Dakota.