As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I’m not only thinking of the importance of gratitude for our many gifts, but also of the gift of gratitude itself.
It is true that we are blessed beyond measure. God really has done “far more abundantly than all that we can ask or think” in our lives. His bounty is, as country folks say, a “gracious plenty.”
One of the curiosities of our age of wealth is that the more we have the less grateful we become. Think about this. Is it not true that seasons of material scarcity in our lives often produce the greatest times of spiritual abundance? The less we have, the more dependent we become on the providential hand of the Giver. Unfortunately, the converse of this principle is true too.
In this era of conspicuous consumption there is one thing we sorely need: gratitude.
It is gratitude–not wealth–that shapes our existence. This is why the 10th commandment orders us not to covet what our neighbor has. This is why the teachings of Jesus tell us not to worry about tomorrow because the God who clothes the lilies of the field in glorious fashion knows also how to give good things to us. This is why St. Paul encourages us to be content with our circumstances, whatever they may be.
An employer was walking through his place of business one day and overheard an employee say, “If only I had $100 today, I would be perfectly content.” The business owner turned to the person and said, “Since I have never seen anyone perfectly content, here is $100,” as he reached in his wallet and handed him a crisp $100 bill. As he walked away, he overheard the man say, “I should have asked for $200.”
Truly, gratitude is the real gift. And our real prayer.
“Thou hast given so much to me, give one thing more: a grateful heart,” the British poet George Herbert wrote. “Not thankful when it pleaseth me, as if Thy blessings had spare days. But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.”
So be grateful, you thanksgivers, for thanksgiving itself.
Charles Foster Johnson is thankful to be the senior pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas.
Charles Foster Johnson is pastor of Bread in Fort Worth, Texas, and founder and executive director of Pastors for Children, a nationwide network of faith leaders mobilized for public education ministry and advocacy.