Why does God want us to be thankful when He doesn’t need our thanks?

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As Pastor Dary spoke on thankfulness this last weekend, I was challenged in my own thoughts by how often I neglect this appropriate response to God and to other people.  The text that we looked at was Luke’s account of Jesus healing the 10 lepers, specifically noting how only 1 of the 10 returned to give his thanks to God (Luke 17:11-19).  One of Pastor Dary’s point was, “We often accept the gift and forget the giver.”  Pastor Dary pointed out that while Jesus was not in some deep need of receiving accolades and thanks, he did commend the one man who returned and gave thanks.  Why does God want us to mirror this same response of gratefulness when He is not in need of our thankfulness?

When I think about how I strive for my own children to be thankful, many thoughts arise that I believe are instructive for why God desires us to be thankful as well.  Let me offer just one that challenges my understand of my own relationship with God.

1. God wants us to be thankful so we see past the gift to the person.  One reason why my wife and I are so exacting about our children saying “thank you” to us when we give them things is not because we have big egos and need constant praise by toddlers.  But I do want relationship with those toddlers.  And the act of thanking requires that my children take their eyes off the gift, turn to Dad and Mom, and engage in relationship.  Our demand for their thankfulness is more for them than it is for us.  I don’t need their thankfulness nearly as much as they need to be the kind of people who are thankful. 

I give not in order to get a relationship with my son or daughters, but because I’m already in relationship with them, and giving naturally grows out of that sort of relationship.  But the danger that lurks behind this giving component of a relationship is that my child would direct more adoration and affection toward the gift than toward the one who gave it.  I think thankfulness helps avoid this danger.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
1. Does thankfulness to God lead to thankfulness to people, or are they disconnected virtues?

2. How can you tell when you are neglecting to be thankful?

3. How are your relationships impacted when you neglect thankfulness?

Categories blog | Tags: | Posted on November 26, 2006

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2 Comments

  1. by Melody

    On November 29, 2006

    I was going to touch on just that. Do any of us really need to be thanked for anything? No. The relationship is what makes us want to say thank you and I’m all about relationship….as is Jesus. I LOVED Dary’s message.

  2. by Amanda Johnson

    On November 29, 2006

    Brent,
    I love how you put this into perspective as a parent. I have four children. When I give my children something or do something for them, I don’t need accolades; I do things for them because:
    A.) I love them
    B.) I am possibly meeting a need for them (physical/emotional/etc.)
    C.) I simply enjoy serving the needs of those I love. Pure and simple.

    God does the same for us. But when people are not thankful for what they receive, they seem to develop an attitude of expectation; that they are somehow entitled to receive things. That, I believe, is why we need to always maintain an attitude of thanks. None of us are entitled to God’s grace, but he gives it freely, just like a parent’s love.

    I think thankfulness toward people and thankfulness toward God are connected for a few reasons. First, we teach our children to use manners and say thank you to people. As they get a little older, we teach them to pray to and thank God. They already know what it means to say thank you, because you’ve already related it to something tangible that they can see and touch. The same can be said for new or “baby” Christians as they learn how to pray. Secondly, God teaches us how to relate to eachother in our relationships through the bible. We are to pray in thanksgiving to him, but we are to live out his virtues with eachother.

    I think when people neglect to be thankful, it affects our entire attitude. I don’t think people are rightly prayerful if they are thankful. What am I saying when I am praying if I am not thanking God? Am I just asking for more stuff, or asking him to just do more for me? I think our attitude toward others gets impatient and self-seeking if we do not reflect on what we are thankful for.

    If we neglect thankfulness for one thing, it can snowball. I think it’s easiest to be thankful for the big, tangible, visible things. People, our homes, clothing, vehicles. How about little things that we never stop to think about? (I am partially paraphrasing Pastor Dary as well, as well as coming up with some on my own…) the fact that we can turn on a shower and have warm water to wash ourselves with? The fact that we can wash our hair whenever we want? Our gas prices may be high, but they pale in comparison to other countries. We have shoes. We have hairspray. (That’s right,…all the women said Amen! ;-) ) Our children say the cutest things; just revel in that! My four year old pointed out today that the snow looks like sugar. I praise God for these children he trusts me to raise, and for every little thing that they do and memory that they make.
    (and for the moments in the nursery/preschool rooms at church as I get to see your beautiful children grow!!)

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