We have so much, and yet we complain. Powerful words. At Holy Hen House on our Facebook page, we’ve been posting daily through our Grateful to God Challenge about gratitude. We have seen your posts overflowing with thanks. You've posted grateful words for abundance from God who gives a wide range of tangible and intangible blessings. It is so wonderful to see your awareness of God’s undeserved grace showered on us.
Now for a moment, I want to focus on the opposite of gratitude, on the lack of gratitude, on this whole matter of unthankfulness. I want us to see that an unthankful heart is no small thing, that ingratitude is no small sin. That’s why we focus our hearts on gratitude and cultivate it.
In 2 Timothy chapter 3, the apostle Paul talks about the last days. I believe we’re living in those days. Paul believed he was living in those days. He said,
In the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them! 2 Timothy 3:1-5
There’s a whole list of what seems to us to be awful sins, but I skipped one in that list. As Paul describes the characteristics of people in these latter days, there is one other characteristic he gives. He says people will be unthankful. Can you believe that unthankfulness, ingratitude, comes in that list of sins above? And Paul says avoid such people. Don’t have anything to do with people like that. Don’t let them influence you. Certainly don’t become one of them.
In Romans chapter 1, the apostle Paul talks about this matter of ingratitude, failing to be thankful. He shows us that an unthankful heart is the soil in which many other kinds of sins grow. Paul says,
Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21
How do we become unthankful people? Why are we sometimes unthankful? I think one of the reasons is that we have expectations. We compare with what others have that we think we’d like to have. We stop appreciating what we have.
Andrew Carnegie was a multi-millionaire who left a million dollars for one of his relatives who in return became angry and bitter toward Andrew Carnegie because Mr. Carnegie had left $365 million to charitable causes. So this poor relative was angry because he only got $1 million of those dollars. Rather than being thankful for what he did have, he had expectations of having more, and he was ungrateful.
How did that happen? Advertising tells us we need more things. We begin to want them. The truth is, they may be wants, but they're not needs. When we start to define wants as needs, then we become ungrateful. We become ungrateful when we become blind to the grace of God around us; when we don’t have eyes to see how everything around us is an expression of God’s grace.
And unthankfulness leads us into so many other sins. That’s why we need to guard against it!
In 1863 Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation. He called the people of the United States "to observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens." And listen to what he said in that Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863 as he spoke to the people of our nation. See if you think these words are appropriate and timely for today.
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown.
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
President Lincoln was speaking to the nation, but I wonder if those words don’t speak to us as individuals. We were guilty, hopelessly guilty, estranged from God. And yet He came to us in our guilt and said, "I will pour out my grace upon you." Where our sin abounded God’s grace did much more abound.
And that thought causes us to be more mindful of what we have, not what we don't have. Let's be grateful to God for yet another of his blessings: full and free forgiveness - even when we are ungrateful - through Jesus!