“That looks terrible!” groaned one of my boys the other night, staring at his plate of spaghetti, “I don’t know how ANYBODY could eat THAT!”
“I know of a lot of people who would be very grateful for something to eat tonight and not going to bed hungry,” was my quick reply. My wife, who was dishing up the supper plates, might have had a few thoughts of her own, but she did not say anything. One word came to my mind: Ungrateful.
Last week we talked about two simple words, “thank you.” So what is the difference between saying “thank you,” and being grateful? “Thank you” flows from the condition of the heart. Jesus refers to this in Luke 6:45 “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Gratitude on the other hand is developed through training the heart.
My reaction to my son was that he should be grateful because many people are starving. But is that the right attitude? Should I be grateful because I have more than others? Jesus told a story about a man with ungodly gratitude. He was a Pharisee who went to the temple to pray. His prayer was “I thank you, God; I am not like other people, swindlers, unjust…or like this tax collector.” Luke 18:11. He was grateful as he looked down on the conditions of others. His heart was not right.
How do we develop a correct heart of gratitude? When the Apostle Paul was writing a letter to his friends in Colossae, he told them, “we give thanks…praying always for you.” At this time Paul was in prison most likely chained to a guard. The conditions were poor at best, damp, smelly and cold. Yet he was grateful for God caring for his friends. He saw the blessing of having such wonderful friends who also loved God and encouraged him. The Apostle Paul could have looked at his situation and complained. Instead he focused on God’s goodness and faithfulness to him. He knew God had a purpose in what he was going through.
Sometimes life dishes us up what we do not like. Even in those times, remember how God is faithful and has blessed you. What can you be grateful for today?
Mike Gunnon is pastor of the Onamia Alliance Church.