“You should be more grateful!”
“Don’t you understand how much you have to be thankful for!”
“Stop asking for things and show some gratitude for what we already have!”
These are things I find myself saying to my kids, the last usually as we walk through Target and I try to get away with just buying bread and milk. And most of it is not said calmly or gently. Turns out you can’t enforce or dictate gratitude. But I know I want it to to be part of my life, part of my children’s lives. But why?? What is it about gratitude that makes it so apparently essential?
The first principle of the Lazarus at the Gate Biblestudy and the Workshops we offer at BFJN is to live gratefully. It is also something the secular world widely acknowledges leads to a happy and healthy life. A quick search on Amazon for books on gratitude yields 7,635 results. A google search for blogs on grateful living reveals a plethora of options as well. This one, another one, another and another. And there’s plenty more.
But what about as followers of Christ? It turns out that this is a principle deeply imbedded in who we were created to be. So it is not surprise that practicing it yield positive results.
The first mention of giving thanks in the Bible comes in Leviticus 7 with instructions on how to present a Thanksgiving offering to the Lord. One of the first instructions God gives to His people was how to thank him. How to be a thankful people.
It seems that gratefulness is essential to drawing near to God. For it is included amongst Leviticus’ legion of instructions regarding sacrifices which were such a large part of being in the Lord’s presence. A way to mark themselves as His people when they were just learning what that meant. Being his people. Part of that was being thankful. Thankful for being set apart. Thankful for another day, even if there was only manna and quail to eat. Thankful for what they had been given, where they were being led (the promised land) and who was leading them.
The gratitude was so expected it was built in to the system of sacrifice which would survive for centuries. Through war, famine, occupying armies and kings and the indifference of the Israelites themselves. The system and the expectation of the thankfulness remained.
And the theme continues throughout scripture. The Psalms are a beautiful book of poetry and they repeatedly and creatively remind us to cultivate grateful hearts.
Psalm 7:17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.
Psalm 95:2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
And about 40 more times the Psalms urge gratitude with words of thanks and gratefulness.
The new testament carries on the theme with at least 75 references to thanks, thanksgiving, gratitude and gratefulness.
2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
Colossians 3:16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
We are called to gratitude because we were created for it. Our lives are better, fuller, more peaceful and effective when we remember to be grateful for what we have because our God made us that way. Made us so that in remembering all that we were given, all that we have already received we are better prepared to live wholly and fully.
The next blog in our gratitude series will look at how we can build practices into our lives that will help us become more grateful people.