With Thanksgiving coming up this week, our collective thoughts turn to gratitude. It’s a good reminder every year, asking us to look at our lives and see that in spite of our daily stresses and tragedies we do all have many, many things to be thankful for. But instead of just a day or a week or a month, shouldn’t we live a life of gratitude?
I know many of us keep lists of things we are thankful for in order to fuel such a life. And that’s great. I’ve found it useful myself. But writing a list is one thing, acting as if we are truly grateful–to God or to others–is another. As I’ve been reading through the Gospels this month, I’ve realized again how many time Jesus addressed this very subject, and that every time gratitude was an action, not just an attitude. Consider the following:
- The parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:23-35): the servant who was shown mercy didn’t show mercy to his fellow servants, proving himself ungrateful for the gift of mercy he’d received.
- The parable of the rich man who built bigger barns (Luke 12:16-21): the rich man proved himself ungrateful for the blessing the Lord had bestowed by hoarding more than he needed rather than being generous in the overflow.
- The ten lepers (Luke 17:12-19: ten lepers appealed to Jesus for mercy, which He gave in the form of healing, but only one was so grateful he was compelled to stop, turn back, and thank Jesus.
- The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:37): the woman who sat weeping at Jesus’ feet, anointing them with perfume and tears and wiping them with her hair, was grateful toward Jesus for His love and acceptance of her in spite of her sin. Meanwhile the Pharisee was ungrateful even for the simple presence of Jesus in his home, which he exhibited by not offering Jesus the courtesy of washing his feet or giving him a kiss in greeting.
I am convicted and humbled by each of these examples. How many times do I allow my gratitude, my thankfulness, to stop at a word–a list or a prayer? Too often. My desire is that gratitude will run so deep inside me that it fuels my actions. That my gratefulness to God for His forgiveness, His mercy, His blessing in my life will be the reason I worship from the heart and not just the lips. That gratefulness will be the lens through which I see and meet the needs of others.
I’m the first to admit I’m not there yet. But I want to be. And that fact alone gives me reason to be grateful. My desire to live a life of gratitude means that God is, indeed, working in me “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) Now that is something to be thankful for!