What’s Your Perspective on Thanks-living?

When reading a fiction or non-fiction book, readers see and experience the events and feelings about the characters through a certain point of view, which is called a perspective. A perspective is a literary tool, which serves as a lens through which readers observe other characters, events, and happenings.

Years ago my wife posted a sign next to the front door of our home that reads “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.” It’s a great conversation starter for visitors to the house, but if I asked you if you believe that to be true, what would your answer be? May I suggest your answer to that question may very well depend on your perspective—or, in other words, through the lens you are viewing the characters, events, and happenings in your life.

As Christians, the lens of Scripture should always be what we use to view every single thing that happens in our lives. And in Scripture, the greatest story ever told is the story of redemption. In literature, the mode of narration that an author employs to let the readers “hear,” “see,” and “feel” what takes place in a story is called point of view. God Himself has narrated the great story of redemption, so as redeemed people we should “hear” the great news of salvation (Luke 1:9; Romans 10:8-9), we should “see” with eyes of faith the future He has set for us (1 Corinthians 2:9; Jeremiah 29:11), and we should “feel” the love He has showered on us in His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). If we are viewing the whole of our lives through those lenses and with that perspective, how can we not live with a thanks-living attitude every day!

We do not have to wait, as the world does, for one month out of the year to starting thinking about what we have to be thankful for. For the redeemed, our perspective is gained from God’s Word. There really is always, always, always something to be thankful for…the Lord’s lovingkindness never ceases and His compassions never fail. They are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22).

Thank God Without Ceasing

Last year, I wrote a blog post on gratitude. In it, I confessed that I often bemoaned the lack of genuine gratitude in my young, unsaved boys, while I unfortunately modeled this same attitude. While I would be lying if I said that I have demonstrated perfect repentance and lived this year in a constant state of gratitude and contentment, I think the Holy Spirit has convicted me of this sin and driven my heart to the cross when complaints creep into my heart and, sometimes, into my speech and body language. I thank God for His infinite patience with me as I seek to live a life in light of receiving eternal life and unmerited favor at the cost of His Son’s life.

This year, my desire is to be more intentional about speaking aloud my gratitude. While I seem to be pretty adept at speaking aloud my complaints, my thoughts about the greatness of God’s mercy do not pass through my lips nearly as often as they should, and I need to share them more—including with my family. I do not want to model a “one and done” attitude towards thanking God for the specific ways in which He is gracious to me. For instance, there are times when we pray as a family when the boys thank God for the same thing repeatedly, and I have found myself thinking “Can you think of something else? We’ve already thanked God for safety at sports five days in a row now.” While I don’t think I have said that aloud, shame on me for thinking it. Because I thanked God for safety yesterday, does that mean I’m covered in that area and can move onto thanking Him for something else? That sounds ridiculous as I write it, but sometimes I act that way—as if I am saying, “I thanked God for my health last week, check, I’ll thank God for our missionaries this week, check, I’ll thank God for my family next week, and then in another month or so, I can go back and start over.” God, forgive me for any time when I feel like I have thanked You enough for anything.

The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. We should thank God without ceasing, and while we will not worship and thank Him perfectly until we are glorified, we can grow in our gratitude. I can do this by pausing as I look around throughout the day. I’m typing on a laptop. Thank you God for work that pays the bills for the electricity and for providing the means to buy this machine I so often complain about. I am looking at pictures of my husband and boys. Thank you Lord for providing me with a husband that loves You and loves me and our kids. Thank you for my boys and for allowing me to raise them and love them. I see a beautiful morning sky through the slats of our blinds. Thank you, Lord, for creating this Earth and sovereignly orchestrating everything that occurs on it. I see canned food piled in the boys’ room. Thank you, Lord, for providing for our physical needs and providing the means for us and others to help people who need food. There is no lack of reminders of God’s graciousness to me. I just need to look around and take the time to thank Him.

Gracious Father, I do not want to grieve your Spirit when He reminds me of specific ways in which You have been immeasurably good to me and my family. ­­Assist me to look to You and see with the spiritual eyes You have given me, that I might humbly bow my heart to You in gratitude for Your grace and mercy, Your protection and provision, Your compassion and patience, Your forbearance and discipline. Help me to speak of Your greatness to others and to model this more consistently in my home.

Thanksgiving and Finances

There are many things we can thank God for: Salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection, first, of course. Family. Country. But money? Should we thank God for the money we have? Isn’t that worldly?

If God told Israel that they should remember, or call to mind in an active way, that He was the one who gave them the ability or power to gain wealth (Deut.8.18), then how could or should we do less?

We must put things in their proper place. Otherwise we will be as foolish as the false teacher who once tweeted, “Jesus bled and died for us so that we can lay claim to the promise of financial prosperity. #ProsperityInChrist #WealthyLiving #AbundantLife.”

That has to be as far away from the truth as one can get regarding salvation and finances.

It is true that James reminds the rich to thank God for their humiliation and their short lives; yet, we should remember He who gave us all the dollars we have in our accounts. Upon remembering His hand in our lives, thanksgiving should not be far behind. Thanking Him for the amount I have in the bank makes it hard to complain. This also makes it hard to be greedy. Greediness is a national favorite sin.

When Nicole and I are able to remember and thank God, we are helped in our attitudes and thoughts. We remember when we didn’t have as much as we do now (not that what we have now is busting any seams). The fact that He has allowed us to have more helps us to hold a lot more loosely to those more abundant dollars.

Remembering God’s financial grace upon us makes us more willing to return some of the money to Him by giving through the church or giving directly to those in need.

How to Avoid the Sin of Ingratitude

“While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.’”—Luke 17:11-19

This account suggests that of those who are blessed by God, only one in ten will stop to give God praise for it. Here we discover that:

  • Not all who truly believe sincerely praise
  • Not all who diligently pray praise equally
  • Not all who readily obey always praise

Like these nine lepers, we are content to enjoy the gift, but are prone to forget the Giver. We are quick to pray, but slow to praise.

The Cause of Ingratitude

Why did the nine refuse to return to give glory to God? Perhaps the reason was:

  • Callousness―underestimating the benefit of thanksgiving
  • Pride―perhaps thinking they were only getting what they deserved, seeing leprosy as an injustice and good health as their right
  • Selfishness―having received new life from Jesus, perhaps fearing He might demand their loyalty
  • Thoughtlessness―not reflecting on the gift, only enjoying the benefit
  • Cowardice―wondering if a grateful response would involve a deeper discipleship
  • Calculation―willing only to do it if others will, but not otherwise
  • Procrastination―putting it off until later, although sometimes until it is too late
  • Worldliness―forgetting Christ for the sake of other loves

The Penalty of Ingratitude

To refuse to be thankful or to nurse an attitude of ingratitude is a sign of a weak moral and spiritual condition (Rom.1:21). The penalty for ingratitude is that it closes the door to deeper blessings in life.

What is the blessing of a grateful heart? A greater blessing (Luke 17:19)! Every child of God should cultivate the grace of gratitude. Why? It opens the heart for greater blessings and it glorifies God.

Bishop Thorold once said, “He who forgets to be thankful, may one day find himself with nothing to be thankful for.”

Luke 17:17-18 shows us that the Son of God values gratitude and misses it when it is not expressed.