Quite unbelievably, LaVar Ball, father of one of the three UCLA basketball players recently arrested in China for shoplifting, played down his son’s theft of sunglasses and showed no gratitude to President Trump’s helping the young men avoid a 5-10 year prison sentence. It might have not turned out so well for them had President Trump not been in China at the same time and interceded for them.
Unfortunately, ungratefulness, although nothing new, seems to be very characteristic of the culture of our day. I’m sure many or most of you have had the experience—probably many times—of doing special things for others, often at great cost or sacrifice of your time and/or resources, and never receiving a “thank you” for your act of kindness. The percentage of those who bother to show appreciation is pretty low. Tragically, it is a reflection on the hearts of people who have become very self-absorbed and expect others to do things for them. Proud people, those who are wrapped up in themselves, don’t say thanks.
On one occasion when Jesus was passing from Galilee to Jerusalem, He entered a village where he met ten lepers who asked Him to have mercy on them (Lk. 17:11-13). Jesus sent them to show themselves to the priest and as they were going, they were cleansed of their leprosy, but only one of them—a Samaritan—returned, glorifying and praising God, to thank Him (vv, 14-16). Jesus said, “What happened to the other nine? Where are they?”
When we have experienced the grace of God and His forgiveness of sin through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, how can we help but be grateful people, knowing that “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights…” (Jas. 1:17). Every breath I take is a gift from God who owes me nothing. When the Apostle Paul addressed the men of Athens, he said to them: “The God who made the world and all things in it…He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:24,25). An attitude of gratitude honors God, acknowledging who He is, who we are, and what He does for us—often through those He brings into our lives to minister to us. So, by saying “thank you” to others when they come to our aid, we are glorifying and praising God. But when we don’t, we are dishonoring Him. “Gratitude is the echo of grace as it reverberates through the hollows of the human heart. Gratitude is the unashamed acceptance of a free gift and the heartfelt declaration that we cherish what we cannot buy. Therefore gratitude glorifies the free grace of God and signifies the humility of a needy and receptive heart” (John Piper…Decision magazine, Nov. 2017, page 16).
In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he wrote: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Ro. 1:18-21).
Paul, in his letters, exhorted his readers to have a gratitude attitude. He wrote: “there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:4,20); “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col. 3:17); “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thes. 5:18). Giving thanks “for all things” (good and bad) acknowledges that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Ro. 8:28). Paul practiced what he preached too, for throughout his letters he thanks others for what they meant to him (Ro. 1:8; I Cor. 1:4; Eph. 1:15,16; Phil. 1:3; Col. 1:3; I Thes. 1:2; 2:13; II Thes. 1:3; II Tim. 1:3; Philemon 4).
So, for the Christian, Thanksgiving should be not just a day but also a way of life. Thanksgiving (and thanks-living) is the only sensible response to the character of God. “Happy Thanksgiving!”