Nine-Tenths-Where Are the Nine?


“And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”
— Luke 17:11-19

Ten lepers cried out to Jesus to be healed.  Jesus healed all ten of them but only one out of the ten returned to express his gratitude.

And if you noticed, Jesus was not entirely pleased with this.  Verse 17 says, “And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” 

The story also does not fail to mention that the one that returned was a Samaritan. And as you know, Samaritans were generally despised and hated by the Jews.  So, why would Jesus point this out?  By highlighting this point, Jesus was inferring that the other nine were the Jews-the ungrateful bunch who neglected to show any gratitude. In so doing, Jesus, was subtly rebuking the Jews. Not just the nine lepers that did not returned, but perhaps more broadly the nation of Israel who, despite having been endowed with all the blessings of God, was found ungrateful and ultimately rejected their promised, long-awaited Messiah. And perhaps even in a larger sense, the story is reproving the professed Christians, who’ve been the recipients of God’s great blessings and yet shows no sign of gratitude.

You know, the Bible has a way of bringing out something new and I would like for us to consider this story from a slightly different angle and maybe expand our application a little further. 

I’ve read this passage numerous times in the past and the obvious lesson is one of properly acknowledging and expressing our gratitude for all that Christ has done for us. However, I would like for us to just pause for a second and think about the numbers mentioned in this story.  The total number of lepers were Ten. And out of the ten, how many returned? Just One. 


If the lesson in this story is one of acknowledging our gratitude toward God, perhaps the story is revealing an area in which we might have overlooked.

Again, just consider for a moment the set of numbers mentioned in this story: There were ten lepers who were healed and yet only one returned. Hence one out of ten is One-tenth.  What is another word for one-tenth in the Bible?  The tithe.

And out of the ten, how many did NOT return? Nine. That would make nine-tenths. Nine-tenths is also the remainder after you set aside your tithe. Is it possible that the story is pointing out something with respect to the remaining nine-tenths?

Drawing the parallel

Let’s think about the story of Ten Lepers and see how it may also relate to handling our money-our temporal means. Again, the story tells us that all ten were healed but only one returned. Jesus asks, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” 

Regarding the tenth, Numbers 18:21 says,

“And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.” 

About this tenth, Leviticus 27: 30-32, says:

 “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord. . . . [vers 32] “And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.”

Thus, the Bible says that the tenth or the tithe of our increase belongs to the Lord.

God instructed the Israelites to bring their tithes to provide for the priests and the Levites. And similarly, when we tithe today, we enable those whom God has called to serve as pastors, missionaries, and other ministries to faithfully build up the Church and expand the kingdom of God. 

But on a personal level, God wants the giver to honor Him by acknowledging Him as the source of all our blessings. Hence when we return faithful tithe, it reminds us that all our resources belong to Him and that we are merely stewards or managers of God’s property. But furthermore, it’s a prescription to make us less selfish and to teach us to really trust Him and depend on Him for our needs. 

But the question is, what about the rest? What about the nine-tenths? Who do they belong to? Should they in anyway be accountable to God? Or do they belong to us . . . left to our own discretion? 

Again, back to Lk 17:17, Jesus says, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” All ten of the lepers became the beneficiaries of our Lord’s blessing, but only one returned. 

Think of it this way, as a way of comparison, the cleansing of ALL TEN lepers represents our net increase from God’s blessing, and one returned or one-tenth represents our tithe. 

For the sake of time I don’t want to spend too much time on the importance of tithing, but generally speaking, our view of God’s portion is designated as one-tenth of our increase or our income. 

And I hope you realize that we are not being generous with God when we return our tithes; we are merely returning that which belongs to Him in the first place. In fact, according to Malachi chapter 3, we’re just shy of not being called thieves when we return our tithes and offerings.

Again, the question remains: what is God’s portion? And what is our portion, IF ANY? More to the point, if there is ANY that is ours to KEEP, what kind of responsibilities or accountability, if any, do we have?

How do we view or manage the “nine-tenths”-the remainder, AFTER we return what we would typically consider “the Lord’s portion”?

I believe that there is a parallel between the NINE who did not returned and the way that we view and manage our temporal resources. 

You might say to yourself, “I have always been faithful in returning the Lord’s portion, the tithe; and out of the remainder, I’ve also given free-will offerings. But what happens after that? What happens AFTER you’ve allocated God’s portion? Do we then take the remainder and use it however we may see fit? Doesn’t our faith have any bearing on how the REMAINDER SHOULD be managed? 

There is this tendency to compartmentalize our spiritual life especially when it comes to how we view and manage our money or our temporal means. 

For example, here on this side, we have the tithe and the free-will offerings-for church expenses and even funds for different ministries and so on. Then on the other side, we have the funds for the “non-religious” part of our life; after all, there are legitimate expenses that needs to be taken care of, such as, mortgage or rent, insurance, the groceries, the utilities, gas for cars, phone bills, and the list can go on and on. And I can honestly resonate with all the pressures of having to meet the demands of life. And believe me, the stress related to money, especially if you don’t have enough, could become unrelenting.

But again, Jesus asks, “but where are the nine?” Take a look:

“Our money has not been given us that we might honor and glorify ourselves. As faithful stewards we are to use it for the honor and glory of God. Some think that only a portion of their means is the Lord’s. When they have set apart a portion for religious and charitable purposes, they regard the remainder as their own, to be used as they see fit. But in this they mistake. All we possess is the Lord’s, and we are accountable to Him for the use we make of it. In the use of every penny, it will be seen whether we love God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves. Money has great value, because it can do great good. In the hands of God’s children it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, and clothing for the naked. . . . But money is of no more value than sand, only as it is put to use in providing for the necessities of life, in blessing others, and advancing the cause of Christ.” {Ellen White, FLB 160.6}

Most of us, if not all of us, feel some sense of entitlement when it comes to things we own or possess, including our money. 

If someone came up to you and asked you what do you own, how would you answer?  You may start by taking a quick inventory of all the things you have in your possession.  

But what does it mean to “own” something anyway?  Does owning something mean to have something in our possession?  Well, if that was the case then someone leasing a car for a few years could be considered the owner of the car.  

Maybe, you’re thinking that you own the house that you are living in.  But do yo
u really? 

Millions of Americans have run out and have bought their homes by signing up for almost a life time of payments; a bloated 30-year mortgages or in some cases even 40-years, which they can barely afford and are paying for it each month with their hard-earned paychecks.  

Are they now the proud owners of these homes?  

In the wake of housing crisis not too long ago, millions of homeowners, who couldn’t pay their mortgages, were forced to discover very quickly that the homes, which they thought they owned, were in fact not theirs at all. 

According to the latest survey, a typical American carries in his wallet about 3 to 4 credit cards. As I’m writing this, the average credit card debt per indebted household is $6,200 dollars per household. 

Having a plastic card in your possession, allows it’s holders to buy or more accurately, FINANCE goods and services with money that is NOT their own. And yet people use it as if IT IS their own money. The item’s that are in our possession, purchased on credit, which we’re still paying for WITH interest; do they truly belong to us? 

Well, same thing can be said about the cars that we “own”.  Obviously, if we’re still making payments, it’s the financing companies that really own your car, they’re the one’s holding onto the pink slip until “your car” is paid in full. 

Let’s suppose that you went to your local consumer electronics store and you bought the latest, brand new, HD smart TV for $2,500 dollars.  And you decide to use a credit card that had an annual percentage rate (APR) of 18 percent. You reason and say to yourself that you can afford to buy this as long as you can spread the payments over time.  Not only that, you come to find out that your minimum monthly payment on this purchase comes out to be only about $50.00 dollars a month and will gradually become even smaller as you pay down the balance. 

You are only paying $50.00 dollars a month or less for a $2,500 dollar purchase and you think to yourself that this is quite the arrangement.  However, what you’re failing to notice is that these accommodations are really set up to string out the payments and interest charges for as long as possible. 

A minimum payment, by the way, is typically about 2 percent of your entire balance on your credit card. Suppose you did buy the TV and you decided to pay only the minimum monthly payment until it was paid off.  Can you take a guess as to how long it would take for you to finally finish making the payment? Well, it would take you 334 months to pay off your debt.  In other words, it would require 28 years to pay off a $2,500 dollar liability.  You would also have paid $5,897 dollars in just interest alone.  So, your true cost for the $2,500 dollar TV would end up being $8397 dollars-more than three times the original cost. 

Having debt is part of American life and in some cases, one might argue that it’s necessary. But did you know that prophet Jeremiah actually considered debt incurred on usury a curse. 

Jeremiah 15:10 “Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me.”   

Usury is the practice of lending money and charging the borrower interest that is excessively high. 

What Jeremiah is saying here is that while he doesn’t have any debt with excessively high interest rate, people still treat him as though he is cursed; Meaning, according to Jeremiah, having debt with high interests is a curse.

You’ve heard about  “payday” loans? 

Your money runs out before your payday; so to cover your expenses, you run out and get these loans. The typical payday loan amount is small; $100 to $1000 dollars and the idea is that you intend to pay it back soon, within a week or two. But did you know that the annual interest rates on these loans are usually anywhere from 400-700 percent? And that doesn’t even include the financing charges? Compare this with your typical credit card interest rates which are anywhere between 18 to 25 percent. 

According to Scripture this kind of lending was considered usury and it was illegal and forbidden. But even the typical rates we pay on our credit card would have been considered usury. 

Prov. 22:7 “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender 

If the borrower is servant to the lender, it certainly gives new meaning to the credit card named the “Mastercard.”

Some Counsels on Borrowing

Deut. 28:12 “The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.” -God would have us debt free.

Rom 13:8 Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”

Exodus 22:14 (NIV) “If a man borrows an animal from his neighbor and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, he must make restitution.” -If you borrow and the goods are damaged in your hands, make them good.

Psalms 37:21 “The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again. . .” –we need to honor our promise and pay back our debt. (see Proverbs 3: 27-28) 

Shun debt -Many poor families are poor because they spend their money as soon as they receive it.  You must see that one should not manage his affairs in a way that will incur debt. . . . When one becomes involved in debt, he is in one of Satan’s nets, which he sets for souls. . . . Abstracting and using money for any purpose, before it is earned, is a snare. –The Adventist Home, p. 392, paragraph 4-6

We get into debt for what is seemingly a good reason.  But after a careful examination, we will discover that we have incurred debts on thing that merely fulfill our desires above and beyond our necessities.  Being in debt can be a debilitating experience.  It can rob us of peace of mind, and the useful resource for future necessities.  It also brings added burden in giving tithes and offerings and for o
ther causes that can bless others and further the gospel.  But there is hope. With careful planning and discretion, we can eliminate debt and limit the future borrowing to an absolute minimum.  Let’s start with a simple step and begin to reap all the benefits of living debt-free. 

But the point in all this is that most Americans today DO believe or perceive that they are in fact the owners of whatever that is in their possession and feel very much entitled to treat them as such even though the true ownership may belong to another.

Possession is nine-tenths of the law?

There is an expression, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law”. It’s an expression meaning that ownership is easier to maintain if one has possession of something. 

In other words, “In the absence of clear and compelling testimony or documentation; if there is no concrete evidence to the contrary, the person in actual possession of the property has a stronger legal claim to owning it and is presumed to be the rightful owner than someone who merely says it belongs to him or her. 

Again, in the absence of compelling evidence, if you actually have something in your possession, you have a stronger legal claim to owning it than someone who merely says it belongs to him or her. 

Let’s just think about this as we look up a few verses:  

Psalm  50:10-12 “ . . . If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof.” 

Haggai. 2:8 “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.

Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein [who are they? They would be us, all of us].”

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 “And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. 18 But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth. . “

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (KJV) “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

When it comes to ownership, the Bible, on no uncertain terms, makes it abundantly clear who owns everything. 

But while most of us (Christians) are willing to concede that at least, according to Scripture, God is in fact the rightful owner of all things, and yet, how we actually spend that which belongs to God is another matter.

Could it be that we might also, in some respects, feel that because “possession is nine-tenths of the law” that we feel entitled to spend it however we like?

I mean, when we go to Target for instance or Walmart or buying things online, whether we are spending for an item as small as a bottled water, the latest electronic gadget, or a big ticket item like buying a car or even a house; are we consciously aware of the fact that we are utilizing what ultimately belongs to the Lord?  Worse yet, we might even be reckless, in over our heads, financing all of these purchases on credit, even though we can barely keep up with the payments. 

How about our retirement accounts? The bulk of our monies that are tucked away for many, many years; twenty, thirty even forty years so we can finally enjoy the fruit of our labor in our golden years. 

I am not suggesting that saving or investing for the future is a bad thing but how are we as Christians, better yet as Adventist, looking forward to the imminent return of our Lord’s coming; any different than the world when it comes to managing our finances. How are we spending our nine-tenths?

Isaiah 55:2 “Where do ye spend money for that which is not bread?  and your labour for that which satisfieth not?  hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” 

“How much means is expended for things that are mere idols, things that engross thought and time and strength which should be put to a higher use! How much money is wasted on expensive houses and furniture, on selfish pleasures, luxurious and unwholesome food, hurtful indulgences! (Ministry of Healing p. 207)

How much is squandered on gifts that benefit no one! For things that are needless, often harmful, professed Christians are today spending more, many times more, than they spend in seeking to rescue souls from the tempter. If you have chosen such a life, you know that you are spending money for that which is not bread, and labor for that which satisfieth not.” (ibid)

Faithful in the “least”

In Luke 16:10-12 we read,

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon[earthly treasures or worldly wealth], who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?”

According to this verse those who are faithful in the LEAST or in the small matters will also be faithful in much. But those who are NOT faithful in the least will also be UNFAITHFUL in much. But what does the word, “LEAST” mean?

In the book, Testimonies for the Church Vol. 1 p. 198, Ellen G White explains what this verse means… and see if you can catch how she defines the word, “least”

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.  He that is faithful in his earthly possessions, which are least, making a judicious use of what God has lent him here, will be true to his profession.” (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church Vol. 1 p. 198)

 It is worth noting that according to sister White, the word, “least,” (among other things) also refer to our “earthly possessions.”  She continues,

“He that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. He that will withhold from God that which He has lent him, will be unfaithful in the things of God in every respect.

“If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon [earthly possessions], who will commit to your trust the true riches?”  If we prove unfaithful in the management of what God lends us here, He will never give us the immortal inheritance. (bracket mine)

“And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?”  Jesus has purchased redemption for us. It is ours; but we are placed here on probation to see if we will prove worthy of eternal life. God proves us by trusting us with earthly possessions. If we are faithful to impart freely of what He has lent us, to advance His cause, God can entrust to us the immortal inheritance.” (ibid) 

About the Parable of the talents (Matt.25:14-30; Luke 16:9-12), Ellen White says,

I was shown that the parable of the talents has not been fully understood. This important lesson was given to the disciples for the benefit of Christians living in the last days. And these talents do not represent merely the ability to preach and instruct from the word of God. The parable applies to the temporal means which God has entrusted to His people. Those to whom the five and the two talents were given, traded and doubled that which was committed to their trust. God requires those who have possessions here, to put their money out to usury for Him–to put it into the cause to spread the truth. And if the truth lives in the heart of the receiver, he also will aid with his substance in sending it to others; and through his efforts, his influence, and his means, other souls will embrace the truth, and begin also to work for God. I saw that some of God’s professed people are like the man who hid his talent in the earth. They keep their possessions from doing good in the cause of God. They claim that these are their own, and that they have a right to do what they please with their own; and souls are not saved by judicious efforts made by them with their Lord’s money. . .” (Testimonies for the Church Vol. 1, pg 197-200; “Lessons from the Parables”)

Are you catching this? Some may think how we manage our temporal resources (“earthly possessions”) are of little importance, while some are plain reckless regarding it.

Please note that the parable of the talents “has not fully understood” and do not necessarily represent “merely the ability to preach and instruct from the word of God”, but that it applies to the temporal meanswhich God has entrusted ”to every man according to his several ability” (Mt 25:15) and expects us to be faithful stewards. We are told,“God proves us by trusting us with earthly possessions” and will hold us accountable; there will be a day of reckoning. Furthermore, it is a solemn thought that he that is unjust in the LEAST [earthly possessions, including the nine-tenths]” will inevitably be “unjust also in much” and thatHe that will withhold from God that which He has lent him, will be unfaithful in the things of God IN EVERY RESPECT.” Suffice it to say, “If we prove unfaithful in the management of what God lends us here, He will never give us the immortal inheritance.”


The way we allocate our financial resources is a pretty accurate indicator of where we’ve placed our values. As we think about our witness before those around us, it becomes pretty evident that in one of our most visible areas, the way we handle our finances, we don’t have much of witness and consequently we bring dishonor to God. Think about how we are being a witness to our creditors.

Are you anxious today or fearful for the future? Are you discouraged and troubled because of your finances? Most people feel pretty uncertain about the times in which we live and the concerns we have about money is a major part of that uncertainty.

My appeal is to really re-evaluating where you are with your finances with the Lord. Perhaps you’re struggling with your finances. You might even be overwhelmed with debt and feeling discouraged and don’t even know where to turn. Perhaps you’ve been faithful in your tithes and offerings but would like to take a step further and have a deeper sense of partnership with God as to how you manage the rest of your means-the nine-tenths.

Again, my appeal is, make God your priority. We simply cannot afford not to. Whatever the situation or challenges you might be facing, Jesus already knows your situation and He is willing to be your partner.  

Maybe you are relying on your retirement accounts or some government programs; Maybe you think you have a great secure job.  But honestly, not one of us really knows what the future holds.

 In Psalm 32:8, God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

Let Christ be your guide, let Him be the one who will provide your present and future security.

Prov. 27:23 “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.”

Whatever that comes into our possession is of value that God has entrusted to us as stewards. And while we should show extra care and attention as to how we should treat it, we also need to trust Him; He is the one who truly knows how best His own means can benefit us as well as furthering His purpose.