My birthday greetings to a retired friend brought an interesting response: “I’m thankful for all the things that could have happened to me up to this point that didn’t.”
That is certainly one perspective when considering life’s blessings, and seeking to express gratitude for them. Indeed, the potentially challenging things we haven’t experienced can be added to the many joyful and meaningful things we have experienced.
Gratitude gets warmly romanticized this week — and that’s good. We need an annual reminder to be grateful for the often-uncounted blessings that come our way.
Most of us are not ingrates. We just stay so busy moving from one thing to another that we fail to give adequate time and attention to considering life’s blessings and expressing appreciation for them to God and one another.
Going beyond sentimentalized gratitude, however, provides an opportunity for extending a sense of gratefulness into everyday living. And it expresses itself most clearly through generosity.
Such generosity comes from consistently having open hands and hearts. It’s about more than our physical resources — but it is about our physical resources.
The ancient words in Proverbs 22:9 (NIV) express that idea clearly: “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.”
It is quite possible to hoard things, treat others as objects, and live in a fortress of self-interest — and still be grateful. Yet, such gratitude is hollow and lacks any element of the divine.
As Episcopal priest and popular columnist Tom Ehrich once wrote: “Faith isn’t about digging a moat around one’s own life.”
It is easy to bow heads around a tableful of food and family this week and voice words of gratitude. It is more faithful — as followers of Jesus — to do so with a renewed commitment to expressing ongoing gratitude through generosity.
Gratitude-driven generosity requires seeing others as equally valued children of God. It calls not for limited charity given down to those in need, but respectful sharing of resources with those who lack the positions of social power we often take for granted.
This year, when we bow our heads over the bountiful blessings of an overflowing table, may we add a little something to our prayers.
To the familiar, “Thank you, God, for all these blessings,” may we add: “And may our gratitude be more fully expressed through our daily generosity.”
Faith is more relational than any well-devised formula. But there does seem to be a pattern here:
When our gratitude is revealed in generosity, then we — and others — are blessed, and our thankfulness to God is expressed more concretely and fully.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.