What Makes People Grateful?
Preparing for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Two Days before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 30
Old Testament: 2 Kings 4:18-31
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 8:1-7
Psalter: Psalm 66:1-9
Old Testament: Jeremiah 51:47-58
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 8:1-7
God of fresh beginnings, you make all things new in the wisdom of Jesus Christ. Make us agents of your transforming power and heralds of your reign of justice and peace, that all may share in the healing Christ brings. Amen.
We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints—and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking (2 Corinthians 8:1-7)
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. –Marcus Aurelius
I have this quote on a card in my office at home where I can see it from my desk. It is one of my favorites.
Why is it that some people live their lives in gratitude and generosity, while others are seemingly ungrateful and stingy? I think the critical element is to be found in this quote from Marcus Aurelius.
Grateful people know that life is not something they deserve. Every new day is received not as payment on a debt owed, but as a gift given for no other reason than the One who gives it wants to do so. Even each breath is taken not as something only understood physiologically, but as a reminder that the One who gives each day is also present in each moment. Grateful people are astonished by the blessings they have received because they know that such joys are not deserved. Thus, persons who live their lives in gratitude focus on what they have been given, not on what has been denied.
And grateful people are generous. They are generous because they know that since what they have received is not owed to them, then neither do they own what they have received. As they have been blessed, so they in turn desire to bless others. They have known the joy of astonishment in receiving what they have not merited, and they want to pass such joy on to others.
Grateful people have no sense of self-entitlement. They do not ask what other people, the government, and the rest of the world owe them. Instead they ask what it is they owe to others, not because they must pay a debt they have not incurred, but on account of the fact that they want to reflect the character of the One who has so blessed them.
Grateful people can be found among the rich, the middle class, and the poor. Their ungrateful counterparts also know no social and economic boundaries. I have known very wealthy people who, in their gratitude, give out of their substance, and I have witnessed those who, in their poverty, have gratefully given out of what they have to live on tomorrow. I have also seen those who are quite rich refuse to be generous because, as they say, “That’s what I pay my taxes for!” Their ungrateful but impoverished counterparts emulate them in focusing only on what they think others have denied them. In resentment over the “blessings” they have not received, it never occurs to them that, even in their want, they can still find ways to bless others.
Grateful people embrace the generous wastefulness of God’s grace, and then pass that grace on to others, reveling in the joy of astonishment they have experienced.
PRAYER: Gracious God, you invite us to hold the needs of our sisters and brothers as dear to us as our own needs. Loving our neighbors as ourselves, we offer our thanksgivings and our petitions on behalf of the church and the world. May we embody in our lives your divine gratitude for the sake of others, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Check out my blog, “Faith Seeking Understanding,” here.