We’re supposed to be thankful on Thanksgiving. But it occurs to me that we’re not very good at this. By we, I don’t mean the editorial “we” by which I’m pointing the finger at the rest of Americans for being ungrateful while I ignore my own ingratitude. By we I don’t mean the “Church” by which I think the problem is the rest of those ungrateful brothers and sisters in the Lord while I silently pretend I’m not full of unhealthy entitlement.
No, I’m talking about me and my own ingratitude. And of all people, shouldn’t it be me that’s the most thankful? Whose first language is one of thanksgiving? After all, it’s me who was sovereignly chosen to salvation, who was brought from death to life by the mercy of God at the cross. It’s me who is the recipient of God’s resurrection power, giving me new life, endowing me with the Holy Spirit, gifting me to serve God, and securing a beautiful eternal city where I’ll dwell with God forever.
It occurs to me that, of all who should be grateful, Christians are at the front of the line. And yet it is us–it is me–who are the least grateful. We belly ache about the state of our country, posting our beefs on Facebook and Twitter, muttering them at the coffee shop and the water cooler. We complain about our jobs, our marriages, our children, our in-laws. We rail against the faults of the Church worldwide, the church local, and that cranky old neighbor next door. When we’ve exhausted these complaints, we moan about the weather.
But our lips should resound with praise. Of all people, we who have been touched by the gospel, should know the depths from which we were rescued. We, of all people should recognize the simple gifts of beauty from a gracious God. Sunlight, oxygen, green grass, rows of harvested corn, breath, blood, life, and community. We, of all people, should enjoy the fruits of American prosperity: political stability, food, order, money, iPhones, clean shirts, education, books, coffee, and a warm coat.
God’s people should speak first the language of gratitude. We should treasure, rather than bemoan, our closest relationships. We should overlook rather than highlight the flaws of those we love. We should embrace, rather than run away from, hard work and accomplishment and purpose.
I wonder the effect on our culture if Christians first simply expressed the unadulterated joy of a man in prison: The Apostle Paul. Where others would complain, he said, “Rejoice.” Where others would give up hope, he said, “I’m content.” Where others would rail at God, he said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”
Imagine the impact if this attitude prevailed among God’s people. Imagine the impact if it simply prevailed in me.
The careless soul receives the Father’s gifts as if it were a way things had of dropping into his hand yet is he ever complaining, as if someone were accountable for the checks which meet him at every turn. For the good that comes to him, he gives no thanks—who is there to thank? At the disappointments that befall him he grumbles—there must be someone to blame! – George MacDonald