We Have a Gratitude Deficit
Alarms are sounding all over in our society. It seems that every interest group is touting their version of the biggest crisis ever. Sadly, we become numb to so many alarms and drift off to sleep even though the noise is deafening.
I think I am detecting a crisis that may be at the root of most, if not all, the others. We are frustrated, lonely, disoriented, and depressed because of the lack of gratitude. Before you stop reading, hear me out. If I’m right, there is a solution. If it is more complicated than this, the hope for surviving the crisis is dim.
Content to Remain Victims
We are competing for the prize of who has been most victimized. Identifying with segments of society that have felt oppression, real or imagined, gives us a voice to demand attention.
While all segments may have been oppressed in one way or another, there are clearly groups that have experienced more injustice than others. In all cases, it is shocking to discover that we have so little control over what happens to us, but that we have a choice in how we respond. When we are content to remain victims and project that as our identity, certain dynamics kick into gear.
- We can easily justify personal vengeance. We can even promote violence toward the perceived oppressor.
- We adopt an entitlement mentality demanding that our personal demands be met regardless of what it might cost others.
- Believing that our voice has not been heard sufficiently, we can justify shutting down all other voices. We don’t want to discuss issues but vilify anyone who disagrees.
- We become disoriented as to truth and functional relationships because we have focused on ourselves. We stagger like a child trying to walk a crooked path while looking only at her shoes.
- We long to be with people but are afraid to interact with them for fear that their views might make us feel unsafe. We gather in the crowded coffee shop with earbuds so we can be lonely together.
It was ingratitude that started this crisis.
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21)
With no design, we have been at a loss to figure out how creation works. No wonder we wander.
This text is in the apostle Paul’s explanation of why the gospel is needed by everyone. He explains that God made himself known in creation and conscience enough for humans to recognize him as God the creator and designer. But, in blind rebellion, we as a race chose to disregard him as such and refused to give thanks. That is, we refused to acknowledge that we are always the recipients, and never the source. Such a choice left the whole race alienated from God, incapable of making life work.
Without acknowledging the designer, we denied the design. With no design, we have been at a loss to figure out how creation works. In our disorientation, we have confused creation and creator, male and female, animals and humans, as well as truth and deception. No wonder we wander.
With no God to guide according to a design, and no source to trust for our needs, we become gods — but very small ones. We conclude that we are the only hope for addressing the problems of society and promote ourselves as saviors.
We are besought with what Nietzsche called “the will to power.” We want desperately to be in control and will do remarkably bizarre things to achieve it. And even more desperate things to keep it.
It is such a tenuous grasp, however, since there is no truth beyond what we can discover for ourselves. We feel alone in the universe, and in our best moments, we tremble at how little we are in charge. Having very little to say, we scream, hoping the volume will cover the shallowness of our words.
The Fruit of Ingratitude
It is not hard to spot the symptoms of ingratitude.
It is reflected in disrespect for parents and parentage. Those who mock their parents and the ideal of parenting will suffer the lack of a secure identity. They will find respect difficult to give and receive.
It is also seen in the general disregard for authority. Structures like government, church, and family are considered outdated and malicious tools of historical oppression. The Bible is mocked or ignored by many who still contend they are Christians. It is their opinion supported by selective science that holds sway in personal decision-making. This leads to rampant dereliction of duty.
There is disdain for paying taxes though we demand the government provide every comfort we demand. We demand that those who have more should divest themselves and equalize provision. Churches should fulfill our religious needs, but we should not be expected to participate in the upkeep of the ministries. Charities should help the poor, sick and afflicted, but someone else should fund them. Children should be educated, but teachers should be willing to sacrifice to get that done, without our help.
Ingratitude only focuses on what’s for me. We don’t even pay what we owe to those who teach us, protect us, and guide us. It produces a society of derelicts.
It is Time to Give Thanks
Is the answer, then, for us to just say thank you periodically? That is a good idea, but we all know how hypocritical we feel when we say thank you, and we really don’t mean it. Like children at a birthday party being told to say thank you for their gifts when they are disappointed in what they were given, “thank you” is hollow.
Consider this. Jesus has shared his life with us. After his crucifixion and resurrection, he ascended to the right hand of the Father and sent the same Spirit who had filled him in his life and raised him in his death, to live in his people. Though he was the Son of God, he spent his life in gratitude to the Father for everything he had. He respected the authorities of his culture even though they were not perfectly reflecting the authority of heaven. He paid his taxes to the temple and to the government. He has given his life to us to enjoy now.
It is time to give thanks — as a lifestyle. To do anything else is to live in delusion.
We have been given the same access to the Father that he had. We are loved by the same love that Jesus knew. We have been given his name to use against the powers that seek to destroy. We are the eternal recipients of a grace that supplies every need we shall ever have. We have his presence, his provision, his protection, and even participation, in his glorious mission on earth.
It is time to give thanks — as a lifestyle. To do anything else is to live in delusion. He is God. He has given. We are his people. We have received. Such gratitude to God releases us to be grateful to all others who are his channels of grace.
“Be filled with the Spirit…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18, 20)