When Gratitude Is Not Natural To Us

Text: Luke 17:11-19

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Saying ‘thank you’ and having sincere gratitude are not natural to us.  In this life, we are, more often than not, ungrateful, not thankful.    

Consider for a moment the world that we live within.  We have gravity that holds us in place and keeps us from flying into outer space.  We have rain that waters our crops.  We have the sun that warms our days and grows our food.  We have an ozone layer that filters out harmful ultraviolet radiation.  We have plants, trees, grass, and shrubs that produce oxygen for us to breathe.  However, how often are we thankful for these things?

And there is more!  We have peace due to our military and police forces.  We have vehicle and planes that allow us to travel across the county in an entire day when such travel used to take weeks. And if we are too tired to get out of our vehicles, we can drive to a building, yell out some commands into a screen, and have food delivered to us in 6 minutes. 

Oh, and do not forget modern medicine.  With simple pills, our pain goes away almost instantaneously.  And small incisions with robots and lasers can fix problems and send us home the next day when 100 years go the same problems would’ve put us in the grave.  However, how often do we marvel at these remarkable gifts?  How often are we glad or surprised by these amazing gifts? 

Unfortunately, we are often more surprised at a juggler who walks on a rope or a magician who shows a monkey how to tap dance on America’s Got Talent than we are with these amazing and marvelous gifts that were just mentioned.  In fact, I think we are all guilty of complaining and being ungrateful with these amazing and marvelous gifts in life.  We never have enough rain; it is always too hot or too cold, people pollute too much and recycle too little!  The police are either too strict or not strict enough, airports are too unorganized and make us miss too many flights, drive-thrus take too long, and hospitals – well, they cost too much and pills are a pain to swallow. 

Unfortunately, we easily forget the blessings that we have experienced in this life.  You see that is the problem with us.  When gratitude springs up in our lives, it has a way of drying up quickly.  It has been said before that nothing ages more quickly than gratitude. 

Dear friends, the human heart has this peculiar feature that it forgets the good things that have happened.  Take for example the Israelites in the wilderness.  The Lord God rescued them from slavery.  The Lord God brought them through the Red Sea, away from Pharoah.  However, what happened afterward?  Hardly three days into the wilderness and they were wishing again to be in Egypt.  Gratitude turned to grumbling, complaining, and a bitter spirit.

Consider other examples: one drought has a way of erasing the gratitude of 13 successful planting seasons.  One bad day in the hospital can erase the gratitude of 100s of days of good health.  One evil act can chase away from our memory and heart all the other good things that we have received. 
What a terrible thing our heart is!  The heart becomes tired and it forgets the gifts that are given to us.  It seems that no matter how God treats our hearts, the end result is the same – we forget the gifts given to us letting our hearts turn to grumbling, complaining, ingratitude, and unthankfulness. 

This should not surprise us though.  Consider Jesus for a moment.  He came to mankind to save mankind from sin, death, and the devil.  He came to give the ultimate gift.  He saved the whole world from the hell that it deserved, and was crucified by His own.  How is that for gratitude and thankfulness!

Dear friends, it has been said before that ingratitude is the greatest vice for it makes those who ought to be the most grateful into those who are the most ungrateful.  Furthermore, ingratitude is shameful to the Lord for it spits in the face of the Lord and His gifts. 

So, with that in mind, we better be grateful, right?  That is to say; we better not be thankless, especially on Thanksgiving Day!  We better offset our thanklessness by doing all sorts of grateful things to show that we are thankful. 

But didn’t we say earlier that gratitude is not natural to us?  So how can we be thankful, if gratitude is not a part of the fabric of our being?

Dear friends, the roots of gratitude are not with us.  Gratitude does not spring forth from our sinful heart.  Gratitude does not start with us.  No!  Gratitude springs forth from the Lord who gives us gifts. 

It is like this; what is so profound and mindblowing is that the Lord gives good gifts to ungrateful sinners like you and me.  He gives us gifts that we have not earned and do not deserve. 

Think about that for a moment.  Name one reason why the Lord God should have died for you, baptized you, claimed you, and made you His own!  There is no reason why He should have done any of that for you and one thousand reasons why He should not have.  And yet, He did this all for you and me. 

The air that we breathe is pure gift. God be praised.

The peace that we enjoy – pure gift.  God be praised.

The food that we eat, the water that we drink, the homes that we live in, and the health that we have – gift!  God be praised. 

The love that we share and receive from others, the laughter that we hear, the smiles that we give and receive – gift, gift, gift, and gift!  God be praised. 

And the gift of forgiveness, life, and salvation?  Sheer… 100%... Gift!  God be praised. 

And so, as we contemplate the Lord’s gifts to and for us, we not only hear that we are forgiven for our ingratitude – indeed you are forgiven – but we are also gifted thankfulness.  We are gifted praise.  We are gifted joy and delight!  And this, my friends, is all that the Lord desires.  He desires nothing but thanks and praise. 

Saying thank you, though, is not giving God anything.  You see faithless Christians always want to give something to God as though God needs their service.  But trying to give something to God is not gratitude, and it certainly is not thankfulness.  We cannot give God anything for He already has everything.  Besides, all that we have comes from Him in the first place.  And so, we can only stand with our hands full of gifts that we don’t deserve and have not earned, shaking our head with a smile saying,

“I don’t deserve any of this.  I am unworthy.  I am especially undeserving of the precious blood and immeasurable work of Jesus on my behalf; however, I receive this gift by faith, and I am grateful that you would love me, die for me, and give me forgiveness, life, and salvation for Christ’s sake.  Thank you, Lord God.  O God be praised!” 

Indeed, God be praised this Thanksgiving Day. God be praised for all the gifts that He has bestowed upon you and me.  All is gift in this life.  God be praised.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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