My children are two and four years old, so we are in the stage of life where I am constantly reminding them to use “good words.” I am continually stopping them mid-sentence and prompting them to phrase their requests respectfully with an appropriately placed “please,” and it is an everyday occurrence for me to hold out what they asked for and not let it go until they remember to say “thank you.”
Human nature seems bent against gratitude and toward entitlement. It takes deliberate training to make “thank you” a habitual, yet sincere, response.
This isn’t just true of preschoolers or teenagers with attitude. Ingratitude and entitlement can sadly sneak into our own lives – today, let’s take a few minutes to search our hearts and ask God to point out what, and who, we have been taking for granted lately.
1 Corinthians 1:4 “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”
As we have discussed many times during this month of focus on thanks-giving, true gratitude is tied closely with humility. Thankless people are arrogant and self-centered people. People who either refuse to allow those around them to serve them, or who demand that they be served. People who live their lives with an attitude of self-sufficiency or superiority will not humble themselves to recognize or thank those around them.
Ephesians 1:16 “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”
In order to genuinely thank those who have impacted my life, I must first recognize that I am not the center of the universe. I must, with humility, see the value of those around me and how God has gifted and worked through their lives uniquely. I must recognize my own need, my own inadequacies, my own shortcomings – I must allow myself to depend on others, and receive what they offer, knowing that I cannot fully repay them and “even the score.” Grateful hearts are humble hearts.
Philippians 1:3 “I thank my God every time I remember you.”
Having an attitude of gratitude to and for those around us requires that we humble ourselves and value the other person. Expressing that gratitude is expressing the value that the other person has – showing them how treasured they truly are, both for who they are and what they do. Bestowing honor and expressing worth.
Colossians 1:3-4 “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.”
Now, at this point I feel I have a confession to make: I am a terrible thank-you note writer. I’m pretty sure we missed some people on our thank-you list after our wedding, a major breach of etiquette! But even as we talk about expressing thanks to those around us, I want to challenge you to think beyond the socially obligatory thank-you note for a gift or service. How do we express thanks in a way that shows those around us that we deeply value them, that we see worth in who they are and what they do?
1 Thessalonians 1:2 “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.”
Clearly, there is no cookie-cutter formula for genuinely thanking those who have touched our lives. In order for our thanks to be sincere and uncontrived, the way you thank those around you will vary depending on your gifts, resources, and who you are thanking for what – the options are nearly limitless.
2 Thessalonians 1:3 “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.”
Here are some principles that we can all keep in mind:
- Because thanking people really means recognizing their individual value and worth, our “thanks” should be tailored to them! Whether expressed verbally, in a written note, or in a gift, thanking others is a time to give true encouragement and honor the individuals God has used to touch our lives.
- Isn’t it interesting how Paul, instead of just saying, “thank you,” says over and over, “I thank God for you?” Paul isn’t just recognizing a particular gift or act of service – he is giving honor to these people’s lives and thanking God for their very existence! As we express gratitude to those around us, we should give real thought to how to express to them that we are thankful not just for what they have done for us, but for their very lives – they have worth, regardless of what they do.
- While thanking others is certainly a habit we can form, it shouldn’t be trite. We know the difference between our children thanking us with gratitude and thanking us because it is an expected verbal response – a true humble heart of gratitude will shine through when we communicate! I love reading all of Paul’s expressions of thanks for people in his letters – He clearly is genuinely full of gratitude to and for them, and it shows up in his prayer life, his word choices, his life patterns.
Philemon 1:4 “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers…”
As we prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, who are you thankful for? How can you express that to them today? How can we live lives that don’t just meet social expectations but actually bestow honor and recognize the worth of those God has placed around us?