Monday, January 19, 2015

The Expectation of Thanks

For the last twenty years, I have been watching a growing problem in society.  Well, let's say that it's just one of many that rubs me the wrong way.  None of us are so blind that we don't see the degrading of Godly morals and values and the world's population becoming more centered on self.  As is commonly opined, when society begins to crumble, the first place to look is in the home and how it's structured and how our children are being raised.  And the problem I will be referring to begins there.

Gratitude and thankfulness for the things we do for others is on the wane.  I am seeing it far too often in today's youth.   I can't tell you the number of times my husband and I have done things for family members that puts a strain on our pocketbook, only to receive no thanks.  What's worse is when we do get that telephone call, only to find out later that the caller had to be reminded to make it.  When that happens, it causes me to wonder if the response was genuine, or if it was only uttered to silence a harping parent.  However, if a child is raised right, a reminder shouldn't be necessary, even if the thanks you receive is only viewed as a duty.

I don't give gifts because I want gushing praise.  I don't expect anything, except that the recipient understand how much I love them, regardless of the size or cost of the gift.  A gift is an expression of how much that person means to me.  And the response I receive - a phone call or silence - may tell me how much I mean to that person.  Others I know have expressed the same disappointment and, sadly, this behavior is a heart problem.  As Charles Spurgeon once said, " For the most part, nothing is more easily blotted out than a good turn."

I don't expect others to shower me with gifts.  Money and things aren't important to me.  A simple card with a hand-written note, or a phone call just to let me know I am loved, lifts my spirits more than material things ever could.  They are ways of letting me know that I am important to that person, and they are more than enough.  But when the occasion to exchange gifts becomes a one-sided event with nothing in the way of reciprocation, it can be hurtful.  To draw once again from Charles Spurgeon, "The foal drains his mother, and then kicks her.  The old saying is, 'I taught you to swim, and now you would drown me,' and many a time it comes true. The dog wags his tail till he gets the bone, and then he snaps and bites at the man who fed him."  Spurgeon's metaphor describes the harshest response and, sadly, I have been the recipient of such heartlessness.  As I did with my children, my parents instilled in me a heart of gratitude, especially when it came to thanking others for their thoughtfulness.  But today's youth are either not being taught the proper response, or are, and just don't care.

So, with that thought in mind, let's move on to how God may feel about how we respond to the gifts He faithfully and continually bestows on us.  When His providence continues without fail, do we thank Him, or are we the "dog [that] wags his tail till he gets the bone, and then...snaps and bites" His gracious hand?  Do we even acknowledge the fact that, without Him, we couldn't draw a single breath?  When we rise in the morning, do we thank Him for giving us one more day?  As meals are being prepared, do we pause to consider that if He had not provided the ingredients, we would go hungry?  The roof over our head?  The clothes on our backs?  The job that guarantees our family will be cared for?  Even things as simple as the weather and His creation that surrounds us?  The bounties God pours out upon us are endless, yet how often do we thank Him for the simplest and most basic things?

Not often enough.  And I am just as guilty as the rest who daily fail to recognize His magnificent beneficence.

What is even more astounding is the fact that God provides life and its necessities even for those who hate Him:

"For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."
 (Matthew 5:45)

Now that is definitely something worthy of serious thought!

But there's one difference between how we respond to gifts we receive from others and the response God desires when He gives them.  We may not get the thanks we think we should get, but we can live with it.  God, however, wants to be thanked for the gifts He daily pours out upon us.  He wants to be praised for His benevolence in giving the gift.  He wants to receive the glory He so richly deserves when we acknowledge that it is Him, and only Him, that makes the gift possible.  We were created for His glory, and God is greatly honored by our reciprocation and delights in it.  King David, as well as others, understood that God deserved all of our worship and praise for everything from deliverance from trials and tribulations to merely living and breathing.  The book of Psalms is replete with words of thanksgiving and are too numerous to mention here.  But here is one very small example that sums it up quite nicely:

"Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
    for His steadfast love endures forever!"
 (Psalm 106:1)

Throughout the entire Bible, men gave praise where praise was due, for they knew from whom it was the gift came.  Just a couple more examples:

"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! 
(Matthew 7:11)

 "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."
 (James 1:17) 
When we receive gifts, although we desire it, there should be no overabundant expectation of thanks, especially in light of today's messed up civilization and the lack of parental guidance.  A hug and the simple words, "thank you," should be sufficient.  But with God, there is an expectation of thankfulness.  After all, He is the giver of all things and His greatest desire is that we acknowledge the tremendous love He has for man and all that He does for us.  When He honors us with a gift, whatever that gift may be, small or large, our response should be continual overwhelming gratitude.

The gifts we give our children and grandchildren are only material things that will not last.  But God the Father gave to mankind the ultimate gift that will last forever:  His Son Jesus Christ.  Through His death and resurrection, Jesus secured us a way back to the Father.  He is the Giver of Life, our Provider, our Protector, our Comforter, and the only way to have eternal life.  We may not receive much in the way of thanks from others, but our deep gratitude and sincere thankfulness to God should be such that there is never any question where we stand.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
 (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

There is an old song from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, "Teach Your Children," that parents should take to heart.  By instilling in yourself and your child a heart of gratitude towards God and others, you will know they love Him and you.

May grace and peace, and a heart of gratitude, abound to all who have visited. 


1 comment:

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