One of the keys marks of a follower of Christ is the virtue of gratitude or thankfulness is deeply
pressed down into their heart. While complaining or being critical/cynical is a much easier hill to slide down, to become a person that is grateful and expresses gratitude takes much more intention. In other words, no one wakes up and thinks, what can I complain about today? I want to be the most sour, negative person around. Doesn’t it take much more intention to think, how can I become a grateful person today?
I certainly might be wrong but it seems to me that gratitude is best expressed when it’s toward another person. As I’ve been thinking about this over the past few days, I might be grateful for GPS on my phone that saved me from getting utterly lost in Chicago the other day. But it seemed to me that “kind” of gratitude toward an object has “utility”, it has usefulness. Maybe a simple example would be helpful. When you open presents on Christmas, you are grateful that the clothes you get actually updates your wardrobe and keeps you from feeling like you are a relic from the 80’s. The clothes has utility or a usefulness to another end which is updating your look.
Stay with me, but it seems to me that gratitude when it is expressed right, is always toward another person. That kind of gratitude seems to be different, thicker, maybe more “real”. The gratitude I feel toward the giver is simply based on who they are and not that they are a way to get things (we call that using someone else). In many ways, gratitude is connected to grace because the emotion tries to capture something of the unmerited nature of the gift that is given for your good.
Of course, the best response on our part when we’ve received the gift is to accept it and in no way try to respond to “pay back”. Trust me, growing up in an Asian culture, I know how gift giving with reciprocity is attached. Gratitude is the right response when you are given a gift that comes from the other person’s heart that is not attached to anything except your well being. Any sense in which you then try to perform in return is to miss gratitude
We are grateful to God as His people not just this time of year, but every day, because we understand the nature of the Giver and the gift. To see God’s good gifts as a means to something else is to use God for your ends and purposes. To simply stop, let the free gift of grace from an Ultimate Person, sink into your heart is actually how God intended for us to live. Gratitude is best expressed in deep heart-felt gratitude for the gospel and everything little good gift that comes from His hand.