A friend of mine here in New York once asked me why it was that some Australian friends of his hadn’t expressed thanks following an event to which he had invited them at some cost to himself and his wife. I assured him that most Australians are not like this.
However, in not expressing gratitude, these Australians not only revealed a lack of gratitude for what they had received, but gave the impression that what they had received came as of right. Were they selfish, arrogant or simply bad mannered?
Now, I have to be the first to admit that I don’t always write a formal note of thanks using pen and paper, as has been my past practice, to express my thanks for someone’s kindness. I tend to write my thanks these days via email. But expressing our thanks to others for their generosity or kindness to us is important, isn’t it. In giving thanks we recognize someone’s thoughtfulness and generosity, often at cost to themselves – their gift to us.
When we think about this, isn’t it all too true that we often fail to thank God?
In Psalm 103 David lists the goodness of God, setting out in some detail the ways God had blessed him. David may have done this, not only to express his thanks to God, but also to protect himself from the temptation to be depressed (something which he experienced). He may also have decided to reflect on God’s goodness to prevent himself from forgetting the source of his success and prosperity. He did not want to take God’s grace for granted.
This is an exhortation we need to hear. Consider for a moment the way we tend to treat God. He has been good to us in so many ways – he is never over-indulgent; he disciplines us when we need it; he doesn’t give us everything we want when we want it; and yet his kindness is great. He often gives us unexpected and good things – far more than we deserve (see Ephesians 3:21).
The sad reality is, most of us simply forget to thank God for all his goodness. We take it for granted.
And if we think about it, people who are often ungrateful are, underneath it all, thoughtless, selfish or even discontented. In their eyes, other people who receive good things don’t deserve them. A discontented spirit is simply an ungrateful spirit. To be thankful is to accept the situation you are in – to accept it as part of the loving providence of God. A thankful heart trusts God in every situation and thankful people are happy people and contented.
When we turn to the New Testament we read in Paul’s Letter to the Colossians that as God’s people we need to be grateful to God:
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).