by Richard Mansel, assistant editor
A preacher, in a moment of frustration, wonders why he has seen hundreds helped by loving churches and yet so few come back to say thanks and come to the Lord, who supplied their blessing.
We live in a world where entitlement often replaces gratitude. People expect it as a matter of course in a material world. Wrappers left in the parking lot replace gratitude in the heart.
Narcissism is an overriding preoccupation of self. Mason Cooley says, “The narcissist enjoys being looked at and not looking back.” /1 We see our needs and rarely those of others. We fail to awaken to see our own condition and our need for growth and change. Everything is in relation to our own appetites. Empathy becomes a foreign concept.
Entitlement comes from an early age when we learn the values of life. Our role models, regardless of where their words point, lead us to good or ill. If they are grateful for what they receive, we will likely be, also. If they see only entitlement, we will see others as tools to accomplish what we want and we will rarely stop to express thanks.
Gratitude and the mumbled thanks is not necessarily the same thing. We must not confuse the two. The latter is expected and may be robotic, not heartfelt and genuine. It is sometimes a hollow word expressed as a matter of course. Gratitude, on the other hand, pauses and expresses it through the eyes and the warmth of their touch.
In an impersonal age, we see less of gratitude. Gratitude is personal and requires a genuine connection. People feel vulnerable when they open themselves up. We find more comfort in remaining closed to the world. Therefore, we dispense with gratitude as we hurry back into our shell.
Gratitude changes our perspective. The mundane comes to live. We see what others are doing to make our lives better. In our office, we may stop to thank the person who cleans the building at night. Usually, they never hear anything until they have made a mistake. Would their attitudes not be better if we were also attentive to when they do well?
When others are grateful for what we do, we are thrilled and often redouble our efforts to improve. Why would the pride we feel not be true of others? Sometimes it will not, as we have noted. However, if we all began being openly grateful, things would change.
Besides the social and societal aspects of an ungrateful age, we see that it extends to our spiritual lives. While the word gratitude is rare in New Testament translations, thankfulness is a very common concept. God commands us to be thankful (Psalm 100:4; 1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
In Luke 17:11-19, we find a story of ten lepers who come to Jesus for healing. He sends them to the priests for cleansing. However, only one leper is grateful enough to return.
The grace, mercy and salvation that Christ brings to our lives should lead us to be eternally grateful to God. It should lead us to a commitment that can withstand the cheap assertions of Satan. It will change our entire perspective on life.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” /2