As British pastor John Henry Jowett once said, “Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.”
There’s really no end to what can grow from the root of ingratitude. “An ungrateful person,” Dr. D. James Kennedy pointed out regarding this passage in Romans, “is only one step away from getting his or her needs met in illegitimate ways.”
One of the unseemly side-effects of all the effort and energy our society has invested in building our individual and collective self-esteem is that our culture is now rife with this super-high level of deservedness. The more affluent we are, the higher our standard of living, it seems, the more demanding and discontented we become. Be careful where you place the bar for what you can and can’t live with or without. The height of that baseline affects just about everything.
But who could really be ready for this: “You have no idea how much you have,” the man said, “and yet you always complain.”
We’d all have to agree, wouldn’t we? At many levels, America can be rightly accused of gross ingratitude. But can the church and the Christians in America be accused of the same thing?
The grateful heart that springs forth in joy is not acquired in a moment; it is the fruit of a thousand choices. It is a godly habit and pattern that over time becomes a new muscle in our spiritual makeup. And though like every other sanctified character trait, it does nothing to make us more loved and accepted by God, gratitude does become a reliable measure for where our hearts are with Him. Look for it, listen for it–and you’ll learn a lot about how you’re growing–or deficient–in grace.
Nancy Wolgemuth and Joni Eareckson Tada, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009).
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