In the lobby of our church last year, there stood a small branch from a tree placed in a flower pot. When I first saw it, the branch was very bare. There was a sign that said “The Thankfulness Tree.” Next to it was a basket of leaves in many colors and shapes, and on those leaves people were welcomed to leave a message about what they were thankful for and hang it on the tree. When I looked at the tree a few Sundays later, it was getting quite full with messages from people of all ages.
We all are thankful at Thanksgiving time. It is our obligation, since “thank” is in the holiday name. But for many of us, thankfulness leaves after we tuck ourselves in, full of turkey and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. God never intended a thankful spirit to be limited to one day out of a year. We all know this, and we repeat it throughout the season, but do we live it out in our lives?
Now, I will start with a disclaimer – thankfulness does not mean that you never share burdens, or talk about the “catastrophes” of life (I experience those a lot!). Thankfulness does not mean that we ignore the hardship and strife around us. My sister and I often call each other after a difficult day with the kids and share what the little dears got into. We are not complaining – actually we are usually laughing! So when we share burdens and hardships, the difference between complaining and relating is all in the attitude. Do we relate these things with the mindset that our situation is still better than we deserve, or do we present them with the “I deserve better” mentality?
Ingratitude is Sin
We often do not think of an unthankful spirit as sin but a character flaw that will eventually leave once a person matures. God doesn’t see it that way. In Romans 1, Paul chronicles the destructiveness of sin in man’s life. Part of that downward spiral is ingratitude. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were they thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (1:21) Notice, as they were not thankful to God, they were focused on themselves. That is the ultimate cause for ingratitude – a focus, not on the Almighty Creator, but on one’s own self.
Children are not naturally thankful. They must be trained to say “please” and “thank you.” They must be instructed that the world does not revolve around themselves. They do not understand on their own that there is Someone greater than they are, who controls everything. Thus they tend to be selfish, not willing to share, and whiny – we are the same way when focused on self. We resort to child-like actions and attitudes.
Paul exhorts Timothy about the last days and lists what men will be like in 2 Timothy 3:2 – “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, coveteous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy….” and the list goes on. This list is not a list of admirable qualities, but of one focused on self. Unthankfulness is something that God does not want in the lives of His children.
Thankfulness is an attitude, not an obligation. A thank you card can be written, but the author can be unthankful still. It is a perspective. When you truly believe that you are undeserving of everything God has blessed you with, a thankful spirit is sure to follow. Really, we do not deserve a house to live in, a family, money to spend, etc. We have never done anything for God, and actually we have been ungrateful to Him through our sinfulness. Despite that, He chooses to bless us with all that we have.
Thankfulness is seen as corny and out of vogue. Being a diva or a drama queen is all the rage right now. But people notice the difference. We truly do live in an unthankful generation, so to be thankful- in ANY age group – is a way to let your light truly shine.
So let’s make a thanksgiving resolution: to cultivate a thankful spirit at all times. To not believe that we are entitled to all the luxuries we have, but be humble and see ourselves as we truly are, and thank God for His endless grace to us.