It feels like I’ve been sitting on this subject forever, because for some reason, in an attempt to rationalize some of the deeper biblical teachings, I find myself overlooking the essentials. Gratitude is one of the fundamental characteristics of being a Christ-follower. Gratitude encourages humility, and it gives glory to the Lord, where glory is deserved. How important could this topic be? In a world contaminated with entitlement, it’s hard to not let those same attitudes dwell within us as believers, especially us believers in first world countries.
You’ve heard it be said, “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.” Well, there’s actually a lot to truth to that, it’s the reason history has a tendency to repeat itself. Every generation says, “They don’t have to work hard for things,” about the generation that follows them. As every generation reaps the fruits of the previous generation, we find ourselves becoming more and more dependent on others, and whatever responsibilities we don’t want, we pass over to the government. Possibly the worst aspect of this paradigm, is that the world fails to show gratitude for any of it, acting as if prosperity is owed to them.
Before I dive too much into the issue, I want to use a personal example of how showing gratitude is not always the easiest thing. About 2 weeks ago, my means of transportation (Motorcycle), named Bumble, finally “kicked the bucket,” so to say.
“Well, it looks like I’m walking to the grocery store.” I said to myself in a defeated manner. Upon arrival, I see the motorcycle I’ve had my eye on for a couple of months. Could it be a sign? Probably not, truth be told, I almost thought nothing of it. However, the very next day, my co-signer agreed to help encourage the almighty banks to take pity on a 25-year-old peasant. Now, not only is that a blessing, but it’s a miracle. The very next day after saying goodbye to Bumble, I was able to finance Rumble, who’s name came naturally.
Here was the dilemma I faced, how do you express gratitude without coming across as bragging or boastful? It was as if the devil held my tongue, and tried to make me feel guilty for finding another method of transportation. Granted, it’s a little difficult to brag about a KLR 650, as it’s probably one of the most modest motorcycles in production, so its not like anybody else was nearly as excited about it as I was. In a way, that made me even more nervous to express gratitude, people don’t care, therefore, if you over share your excitement with them, it could easily come across as being boastful or proud.
To simplify the previous point made, “Thanksgiving” shows up in the bible about 15 times, “Gratitude” 11 times, “Thankful” 15 times, and “Thanks” 15 times. You can easily find 50 verses about giving thanks to the Lord. So should we be surprised that Satan works to squash our gratitude?
Even when God has blessed you, Satan will work effortlessly to ensure that you don’t recognize the blessing, if anything, he’ll try to make you feel guilty for it. The reason for this is because something changes in us when we show gratitude to the Lord and others.
Gratitude humbles us, it puts us in a place of humility when we express gratitude. Gratitude empties us of ourselves, and fills another with joy. Do we not feel joy ourselves when we help others, as well as when we are given recognition for the deed? There’s quite a few reasons the Lord wants us to be grateful; gratitude helps us be content with the things we have, closing any gap for our covetous nature to develop. Gratitude is also a part of keeping the mind of the Holy Spirit, as your thoughts are always on how good the Lord is, making it difficult for your flesh or worldly thoughts to get in the way.
in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
[1 Thessalonians 5:20]
In the chaos of everyday life, gratitude is essential in pleasing the Lord. Even if life wasn’t a constant storm, it would still be the Lord’s will that we bask in gratitude for all he has done. The bible gives us a few examples of ways we can show thanks, telling us to be thankful in every circumstance. Tithe or giving financially to those in need is, of course, probably the most common example, which oddly enough sounds counterintuitive, but cheerful giving is a form of gratitude for the things God has blessed you with already.
Each should give according
to what he has decided in his heart,
not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
[2 Corinthians 9:7]
Believe it or not, music is also an expression of gratitude. Psalm 95:2 says, “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Like I said, gratitude brings us to a place of humility, as does worshiping the Lord in song.
From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. I will add to their numbers, and they will not be decreased; I will bring them honor, and they will not be disdained. [Jeremiah 30:19]
Worship music isn’t worship music without praising the Lord for who he is and what he’s done. Of course, this would be an assumption, but I think the Lords favorite form of gratitude is through songs of praise, not because of his (again, assuming) love for electric guitars and synthesizers, but because his children congregate to give thanks together, fellowshipping with one another as we sing songs of how good the Lord is.
Contagious Generosity, is causing one to be thankful through our own gratitude for the Gospel. 2 Corinthians 9:11 says, “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” The bible also indicates that through the generosity of others, even when we are not involved, that gratitude should flow from us for the good deeds of our fellow believers. Such a gratitude is referenced in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
Alright, so we’ve went over a few examples; Giving, Singing songs of praise, verbal thanksgiving, and being thankful towards others. Of course, obedience makes the list. There’s no better way to show gratitude than to do what the Lord finds pleasing, which also correlates to maintenance, as maintaining the things the Lord has blessed you with is a virtue of gratitude. Don’t you remember when you bought your teenager their first car? You’d think you got your son a $4,000 toy, on day one he’s peeling out, leaving a cloud of burnt rubber radiating from the driveway.
Don’t be a 16 year old boy with his first Honda Civic, take care of the things God gives you. While they are meant to be enjoyed at times, a gift is also a responsibility, and just as your teenager didn’t show appreciation for the gift, how then can you expect God to keep blessing you, if you allow the condition of those blessings to rot while in your care? A greater form of maintenance is not only taking care of the things God gives you, but taking care of yourself.
Maintaining you’re the condition of your spirit is of upmost importance. Jesus said in Matthew 15:11, “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”
Defilement, really think about that word for a second. Let alone, spiritual defilement. We know the words that come out of our mouth don’t necessarily make us sick, people aren’t stricken with illness because they said a bad word. However, if we knew what defilement of the spirit looked like, we would be much more inclined to turn from such things. Likewise, a tongue which spews distaste can never profess the gratitude the Lord wishes to see from us. You either complain or give thanks, both cannot be proclaimed in honesty from the same tongue.
“And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.
Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”
When we have an enemy who constantly attempts to oppress our efforts to be grateful, trying to put things into perspective is a great way to oppose his effort to derail your attitude. Perspective would be something like sponsoring a child, seeing the impact you’re making in their life, while simultaneously, realizing that you may have it a little better than you thought. Another, and more practical, method of putting things into perspective, is to do little things like keeping the prayer cards of answered prayers instead of throwing them out.
Believe it or not, gratitude can also be seen as an act of faith, one of the heaviest examples of this is found in Luke 17 verses 17-19, “Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
In Jesus’s day, there was a big divide between Jew and Gentile (Non-Jew). This was a gap Jesus sought to close, to unite humanity under him, the Messiah. This becomes evident, when Jesus is clear to point out the differences. Often times, Jesus would talk down to the Jews, calling them out on their own righteousness. However, when it comes to Gentiles like the Samarian woman at the well, where Jesus seems to embrace the gentiles with compassion.
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Jesus Didn’t shy away from the fact that salvation comes through the Jews, because the Messiah would be a Jew, but he didn’t condone many of their practices. In Luke 17, it sounds as if Jesus healed 9 locals, and a gentile. While the Jews predominantly found wonder in his miracles, it was the gentile who found eternal life through his miracles. His return to show gratitude to the Man who healed him, was something so much more than the end of an illness.
“I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”
Keep persisting in prayer, staying alert in it and being thankful.
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
In all things, in every occasion, give thanks to the Lord. The covenant no longer requires blood sacrifice, as it once did. There is a new covenant, which requires the sacrifice of generosity and gratitude. A law that only asks us to freely give, compassionately and cheerfully. A Law that asks us to be humble towards each other, and a law which asks us to be thankful for the things that are given to us. We are to give and receive bountifully, with relentless joy. These things we have belong to the Lord anyways, so may we enjoy them, and share that joy with others. Objects are just objects, may our gratitude for trinkets outweigh their worth, for that is the essence of gratitude everlasting.