This week is Thanksgiving week in the United States. Within COVID restrictions, we will gather with our families on Thursday, enjoy a vast meal together and pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the year. I suspect, though, that our gratitude is often too limited to this day on the calendar. I admit my own failure here, and here are some reasons we're not a very thankful people:
- We're raised to work hard and to accomplish things on our own. There's nothing wrong with individual commitment and effort, of course, but sometimes we assume that we're responsible for anything we've accomplished. When that's the case, we have less reason to be grateful.
- We've not truly seen a lifestyle of gratitude modeled. Our parents often taught to us say "thank you" when we were kids. We still know it's polite to say those words, but seldom have we seen someone who just oozes gratitude—who knows without question that he or she is nothing without Christ.
- We have greedy and covetous hearts. That is, we usually want more, and we often want more than someone else has. The world pushes us in that direction (such as "get all you can get"), but we won't be grateful when we're constantly seeking more.
- We think about being grateful for the big things—the unexpected, the miraculous, the highly significant things in our lives—not the daily little things we take for granted. We know we must say "thank You" to God when He amazingly intervenes in our lives; we forget, though, to be thankful for our everyday "routine" blessings from the Lord.
- We don't realize just how blessed we are. I know the situations of my readers will vary, but most of us are blessed with material blessings far beyond what much of the world receives. Just having food on our tables, roofs over our heads and clothing on our backs make us blessed. We have reason to be grateful.
- We who are church leaders don't know how to deal with church members who let us down. It happens, and it happens often. When we allow ourselves to get wounded and scarred, however, we won't be grateful for God's people. We won't love them with the love the apostle Paul had even for the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 16:24).
- We fail to see expressing thanks as a daily act of worship. The psalmist put it this way: "I will give thanks to You, O Lord, with my whole heart" (Ps. 9:1a) and "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I was helped; therefore my heart rejoices, and with my song I will thank Him" (Ps. 28:7). Paul captured it this way: "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thess. 5:16-18). True gratitude is true worship.
Would you pray for me this week that I would be more grateful?
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This article originally appeared at chucklawless.com.
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