It was the harvest festival.
This was a special celebration in India. Everyone offered something as an expression of thanks.
The local pastor watched the people entering the church. Most brought food.
Then he noticed her.
The old woman was thin, brown and wrinkled; so frail it seemed a puff of wind might knock her over. She slowly made her way to the front of the church. She carried a large basket of rice. The minister went down to greet her and took the basket from her weathered arms.
She smiled and thanked him.
She was very poor. This he knew. But he also knew she was faithful and devout. Though she had little, she loved God with all she had.
“Oh, dear sister,” the pastor marveled, “this is a very large offering!” The old lady nodded. He asked her if this was an offering for some unusual blessing.
“Yes,” the old woman replied. “My son was very sick and I promised God a large gift if he got well.”
“And your son has recovered?” the minister asked.
The woman paused and he caught a sudden glistening in her eyes.
“No,” she said softly. “He died last week. But I know that he is in God’s care. For that I am especially thankful.”
How much easier it would be if our gratitude could be premised on the circumstances of our lives. God does not leave that option to us. He does not want our thankfulness to be conditional. He wants it to be unequivocal.
God wants our gratitude to be transcendent.
He is clear and direct on this point. We are given no out, no excuse, no exemption and no qualifier.
“In everything give thanks,” Paul tells the Thessalonians (I Thessalonians 5:18, KJV).
“… no matter what the circumstances may be” (The Amplified Bible).
“Thank God no matter what happens” (The Message).
God does not recognize a circumstantial gratitude.
And just in case we may be tempted to think this is only Paul’s view of life, the apostle immediately clears that up in the same verse:
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (KJV, emphasis added).
It’s a powerful emphasis Paul adds.
This is God’s will for you and me. This is how God wants us to live. This is how he wants us to think. It’s how he wants us to respond.
And if we are “in Christ Jesus,” Paul says, we will want this too.
God wants thankfulness to be our way of living. Gratitude must be a mindset with the Christian; a positive way of viewing the world and our place in it.
Thankfulness is the Christ-centered philosophy of life.
Everyone goes through life feeling entitled or indebted. And one of those two attitudes permeates every area of our lives – our reaction to every situation and our response and relationship to every person.
These attitudes affect our religion and how we see God and expect him to see us. The health and wealth claims of the Prosperity Gospel, which has a large following, are, at their root, an attitude of entitlement: “where’s mine and why is it taking so long to get here?”
The attitude of indebtedness, by contrast, is best summed up in the simple prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, be merciful to me a sinner.”
It’s the difference between gratification and gratitude.
In the mid-term elections, polls showed Americans angry, bitter, and dissatisfied. Nearly two-thirds said our country is on “the wrong track” and close to half said things will be worse for their children.
Three weeks later, we were told by the media that “an improving economy, more disposable income, consumer optimism and low gas prices are combining to create the biggest Thanksgiving travel rush in years.”
So tomorrow, what will it be?
Will there be a complaining and entitled spirit around our table or a spirit of indebtedness to God and genuine thanks? Will we be despondent with disappointments or shall we joyfully count our many blessings?
It’s interesting that in this passage Paul associates thankfulness with joy, prayer, patience, and encouraging others – none of which are possible without gratitude.
It’s not always easy.
I have a friend who’s had a rough year. He hopes and prays that he and his family are on the other side of it. I have a colleague who just discovered that the latest tests show that his mother-in-law’s stage -four pancreatic cancer has spread.
Thankfulness doesn’t come naturally in such circumstances. It doesn’t come naturally at all. Like all good graces and the fruits of the Spirit, the seeds of gratitude must be carefully and deliberately cultivated in the soil of the soul.
God helps us to do that if we’ll let him.
When international evangelist Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs, was asked if he had ever been bitter toward God for his disability, he said he knew that was one response he could have chosen. Instead, Nick says, “I chose gratitude.” In a worldwide ministry that pulsates with joy and optimism, that choice has made all the difference.
Thankfulness is a choice. Shall we choose to be grateful? We’ve got a big basketful of reasons.
May God bless you and your family. And have a Happy Thanlksgiving.