"More gratitude give me." These are the first words of the 2nd stanza of the old hymn "More Holiness Give Me" found on page 134 in our hymn book. A recent conversation with a close friend of mine caused me to think about the words of this song and to do some further thinking about the idea of "gratitude." I guess I could say, the attitude of "being grateful." I don't know about you, but it just seems to me that there is a major lack of gratefulness or thankfulness on the part of the biggest portion of our society today.
It just seems that people are not grateful any more. Very seldom, in today's world, do you find someone who exhibits the attitude of gratitude. (I like that combination of words, attitude of gratitude.) People just show no thankfulness towards others for much of anything. Perhaps we've come to "expect it" and feel that whatever we receive is "owed" us. It's my personal opinion that it is just this type of attitude that is the downfall of the welfare system. It's that idea that many people possess that says, I deserve to be paid money because I'm alive and not working.
What causes me to say this, is that I recall a couple of years ago, there was a riot in Los Angeles and the rioters burned down a local post office. A TV news crew was out interviewing some of the local inhabitants of that neighborhood and one of the women interviewed was very concerned about the loss of the post office and stated, "How are we going to get our welfare PAYCHECKS since the post office burned?" "Paychecks?" You see, to me, this is the essence of what I'm addressing here. People have come to expect "largess" (meaning = a gift bestowed) as something due them.
There are many thoughts on the idea of gratitude, gratefulness and thankfulness and I'll share a few with you this morning. And just so that you don't think that the prevalence of ingratitude is something of a recent nature, I'll call your attention to an incident clear back in Jesus's day.
In Luke 17:12-19 we find the account of the healing of the 10 lepers. How many of them thanked Him for being healed of the most dreaded and horrifying disease of that day? You got it. Only one bothered to come back and give thanks for it and glorify God. How did Jesus feel about this. Notice His statement in the 17th verse; "Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?"
There is another interesting aspect about this incident that you may not have picked up on. The only leper to return and thank Jesus "was a Samaritan." Not a Jew. An outsider or as stated by Jesus in verse 18, "a stranger." I see Jesus making note of this fact as a rebuke against the Jews, the other 9 lepers, for their ungratefulness. Perhaps a 10% return of gratitude today is about equal to Christ's time.
The incident of the 10 lepers seems to amplify the thoughts of some other authors. Samuel Johnson once wrote, "Gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation; you do not find it among gross people." And, the famous author Aesop, in his story of Androcles and the Lion said, "Gratitude is the sign of noble souls." To use another New Testament phrase, don't you see the thankful leper as being "more noble" than his fellow lepers? I do.
There are numerous scriptures throughout the Bible that teach God's people are to be thankful people. Why, just in the Old Testament alone, the phrase "giving thanks" to God is used 73 times. (my count) Psalms 100 is all about being thankful to God.
Some interesting passages in Romans regarding this subject, are found in the 1st chapter. Right after Paul says, "The just shall live by faith." he then mentions the ungodly and the unrighteous and says that, even though they knew God, they didn't glorify Him, "neither were they thankful."
As I see it, ingratitude and Christianity are diametrically opposed to each other. In other words, an "ungrateful" person will not be a Christian, nor will a Christian be "ungrateful."
Even back in Christ's and the apostles' days, there were secular writers offering thoughts about gratitude and thankfulness. A Roman author, Seneca, who lived and wrote during the same period as Jesus and the apostles, had these thoughts on this subject. He said, "If I only have the will to be grateful, I am so." He also wrote, "He that urges gratitude pleads the cause both of God and men, for without it we can neither be sociable nor religious."
I mentioned Psalms a moment ago, and here is a thought put forth by author Jeremy Taylor. "From David learn to give thanks for everything. Every furrow in the Book of Psalms is sown with the seeds of thanksgiving."
And in a thought that relates to James 1:27 of the New Testament, Taylor wrote these words: "God is pleased with no music below so much as with the thanksgiving songs of relieved widows and supported orphans; of rejoicing, comforted and thankful persons."
Other famous authors have touched upon this subject also. Such as, Benjamin Franklin, who penned these words that I see going towards our thankfulness to God for everything that we have on this earth. He said, "The heaviest debt is that of gratitude, when it is not in our power to repay it."
I ask you, what could a person do to "repay" God for His blessings? Not one thing, except to possess a grateful heart, keep His Word and "give thanks" to Him. And don't you find our quotation by Shakespeare appropriate to a Christian attitude?
Well, how do we develop and keep a heart of gratitude. I think that the first step towards that goal is to always remember from where the fount of all blessings flows. And secondly, to always give thanks to God for those blessings.
Like the words of the song says: "Count your many blessings, name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done." If our heart is then thankful to God, it will then automatically be one that is grateful to our fellow man for those things we receive of them. It's a pretty simple equation, isn't it?
Lets take the advice of the author Jeremy Taylor, and look at some words by the Psalmist David for our closing thoughts. Read with me his words written in Psalms 103:1-4 and see if maybe this isn't the essence of thankfulness to God.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies."