The Gospel writer Luke captures a layered episode from Christ's mortal ministry that teaches a subtle lesson on the nature of service.
In Luke 17, we read of the encounter the Savior had "with ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off." The desperate men lifted their voices, calling Jesus "Master" and imploring Him to offer them mercy. In response, Christ directed the lepers to show themselves to the priests. "And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed."
Luke then writes that only one of the healed men, a Samaritan, turned back and, with a loud voice, glorified God and gave thanks for the Savior's priceless act of service. "And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
"There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger."
Luke's account of the solitary, grateful leper remains a potent reminder of showing gratitude for one's blessings. Like the lepers, we are all in desperate need of Christ's healing touch, and the service of others. But this miraculous moment also teaches a valuable lesson about offering service.
On Jan. 13, 2001, a deadly earthquake rattled El Salvador. A day later, Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy traveled to the capital city of San Salvador. There he encouraged the members to follow the Savior's example by assisting others in their time of need. Elder Robbins enlisted Luke 17 to illustrate this timeless lesson of Christlike service.
"Remember the 10 lepers who were healed and only one of them returned to thank Him who had granted the life-changing miracle," he said. "Yet the Savior did not regret healing the other nine, and neither should we worry if we do not receive thanks for what we do."
Perhaps it's natural to hope for a "thank you" after offering some kind of service, large or small. We all appreciate being acknowledged. But sometimes those outward signals of gratitude never materialize.
Still, Church leaders remind there is One who sees our good deeds and regards them as "no less serviceable" (Alma 48:19) than those well-publicized acts that invite grateful tribute. Like the Savior, we must never regret serving another, even if our efforts appear to go unrecognized.
"Not all of us are going to be like (Captain) Moroni, catching the acclaim of our colleagues all day every day," wrote President Howard W. Hunter. "Most of us will be quiet, relatively unknown folks who come and go and do our work without fanfare. To those of you who may find that lonely or frightening or just unspectacular, I say, you are 'no less serviceable' than the most spectacular of your associates. You, too, are part of God's army.
"Consider, for example, the profound service a mother or father gives in the quiet anonymity of a worthy Latter-day Saint home. Think of the gospel doctrine teachers and Primary choristers and Scoutmasters and Relief Society visiting teachers who serve and bless millions but whose names will never be publicly applauded or featured in the nation's media.
"Tens of thousands of unseen people make possible our opportunities and happiness every day" (Ensign, April 1992, p. 64).
To those who serve and wonder if their actions are noted and appreciated, find divine assurance in Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount:
"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
"Therefore when thou doest alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have the glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
"But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
"That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:1-4).