One of the most important virtues it seems to me, that has to get “into us” is gratitude. I can’t think of any other more practical virtue, other than honesty, than tilling the hard solid of our heart to plant thankfulness. It saddens me a great deal when the consumer culture we live in takes the day where we pause to give thanks and pushes it to the margins to get to the “Day of Stuff”. In this day and age where entitlement and coveting rule the day, how much more important is it to reflect on becoming people who are truly grateful.
Steve Osborn and I have had this person who mentored the both of us when we were on staff with Campus Crusade. In fact, we would probably both list Walt Henrichsen as one of the most influential people in our lives. I remember Walt would tell us as we gathered at his house that when your gratitude is given to a source other than God, it’s simply a matter of time before you stop being grateful. Why is this true?
When you sense that you had just a little part in it, or when you look for some reason why you are deserving, you will cease to be grateful. Take for instance, when you buy something. You might be initially grateful that you saved up money to buy this precious thing but soon you cease to be grateful. Gratitude seems to wear off over time. Or take for instance, when you get a unexpected bonus at work. While you might be grateful initially, once you start looking for the reason why the owner gave the bonus in the first place, you will try to tie your performance in with the next bonus. When it’s less the next year you will not be grateful, rather you will be disappointed that you didn’t work hard enough (or others didn’t work as hard as you did).
True and deep gratitude seems to last when you sense that the gift has been freely given to you with no connection to your performance or contribution. In other words, the gift is unmerited; it’s simply a gift of grace. Another way to put it might be when your gratitude is given to anyone or anything other than God, over time you will stop being grateful. It’s the recognition that every good gift comes from the Heavenly Father (James 1:17). When you understand that there was nothing that was nothing in your performance or contribution that determined God’s gracious gift, this will help you to be truly grateful.
I’ve said this before but ingratitude is the sure sign of a spoiled person. As Walt would say, “They are bored and hard to please.” Could it be that one of the reasons why people are so bored and irritable is that they are ungrateful? This Thanksgiving, in the midst of our abundance, let’s give thanks to the Father for who He is rather than loving Him for the good gifts He gives us. Let me gently suggest then that the day of gratitude is meant to create people of gratitude.