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?