As a child, I always wanted the praise of adults. After all, that’s how I knew I was doing a good job. Praise is a great motivator, even among adults. However, the problem with receiving praise is that sometimes we start focusing on the praise and not what we’re doing. This is when we start doing things for the wrong reason. We expect this of younger children. However, as folks grow older, we expect that they are able to reason out what the right thing to do is and we hope that they would do the right thing because it’s simply right. The reality is that we’re still too hooked on praise.
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” – Luke 17:11-19, ESV
Given the social implications of being a leper in that society, you would think all ten lepers would have been very appreciative of the healing they received from Jesus. They went from being outcasts who could not participate in society to being able to rejoin their family and friends. However, only one of the ten turned back to think Jesus. The text points out the one was a Samaritan, and while there are implications to that, that won’t be our focus for today.
What should be our focus is that even our Lord didn’t get the praise He deserved. Moreover, He didn’t get the praise when He performed an unquestionable miracle. Yet Jesus still performed the miracle. Why? He performed it simply because it was the right thing to do. Yes, it was also a teaching moment for His followers, but Jesus still only did what was right. This is important for us to remember as His followers.
When you do what you can, don’t expect praise. Praise is nice, but it shouldn’t be your motivating factor. Serving Christ, following in His footsteps, knowing there’s a treasure in heaven being set aside for you – those are good and proper motivations. Human praise should not be a driving motivation. While we should be appreciative of such praise, as Jesus was, we should do what we do simply because it’s the right thing to do. So when you go to lend a hand, don’t look for praise. Don’t expect it. Expect that 9 out of 10 times, those you help won’t even acknowledge what you’ve done. When that 1 in 10 or 1 in 100 or 1 in 10,000 occurrence happens, be appreciative. Remember, agape love is sacrificial. It’s giving love with no expectation of anything in return. This is the love we are called to share with those around us.