’Tis the season to be thankful. Thankful for family and friends, health and food, clothing and shelter. I enjoy Thanksgiving and the traditions it brings. But the thanks we offer around Thanksgiving has always struck me as a bit forced. Perhaps it draws out the cynic in me, but questions like: “are we really thankful for such and such,” or “shouldn’t we always express this kind of gratitude?” seem to creep into my thinking.
Obviously, thanksgiving is meant to be a staple in the Christian diet (Psalm 69:30; 95:2; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 5:4). In fact, the call for God’s people to be thankful occurs dozens of times in the Scriptures. Why so many?
To answer that question, I began to think about instances in my life when I was truly overwhelmed with gratitude. Then I noticed all those instances had something in common: I was the recipient of generosity I didn’t feel I deserved.
If being the recipients of undeserved generosity is what sparks gratitude, Christians should be the most thankful people in the universe! Maybe that’s why the Bible encourages so much thanksgiving from God’s people. Because, of all people, Christians know they are the most undeserving of anything good, but in spite of it are the recipients of God's overwhelming generosity!
Of course, this works in the opposite direction as well. Ingratitude conveys we think we are owed something. So if we get something good, we may not be grateful because we think we deserved it. Or if we don’t get what we think we’ve earned, it not only makes us ungrateful, but despondent. So when you think about it, ingratitude is really nasty and a symptom of a spiritually debilitating disease.
Grateful people are humble people. They recognize they aren’t owed anything. So when something good happens it leads them to express heartfelt thanksgiving. No wonder why the Bible calls Christians to be so thankful!