God and gratitude

Fellow parents…imagine with me for a minute. You come home from work or shopping with armloads of wonderful and much-desired gifts for your children, anticipating and envisioning squeals of delight and copious displays of affection and gratitude. But instead, when you joyfully present them, your children respond with yawns of ‘whatever’ and copious attitudes of entitlement and disregard. Not only do they not thank you, they don’t even acknowledge you as their loving benefactor before leaving for their rooms with their gifts.

You, like me, would probably resolve to do one of two things: never give them anything ever again, or somehow train them in the virtues of humility, gratitude, and respect. At the very least, you would think twice before bestowing on them anything beyond what they actually need.

produce8So if there is a God who gave us life and sustains our lives, fashioned us with talents and proclivities that we use to provide for ourselves and our family, gives us many good and beautiful things to enjoy like water for our physical thirst and vibrant sunsets for our sensory thirst, not to mention preparing a place in heaven for those who believe in him…do we not owe him copious displays of affection and gratitude?

I wrote last time about the appropriateness of professional athletes giving God thanks and praise on the field for their successes. But expressions of thanksgiving to God are not just appropriate and admirable and sometimes heart-warming. They are a necessary response to the one to whom we owe everything. It’s the very least we should give him. To refuse to acknowledge his goodness and gifts with a grateful heart is akin to a rebellious rejection of himself.

If you put yourself in my little parable up there, you probably discerned the potential for serious feelings of rejection. And if you are a wise and loving parent, you probably also began imagining how you would respond to your children’s disregard of you and your gifts, likely involving a less than pleasant life lesson. Should we not expect that God does and will respond in some disciplinary way to our indifference when we blatantly neglect to acknowledge his many provisions for us?

I suspect that some unintentionally but effectively snub God because they don’t really see him as a ‘personal’ being with emotions and desires. To them he’s more like a faceless CEO granting yearly, expected bonuses to his countless employees, with whom he is not even personally acquainted. But the Bible portrays God as having feelings…as being grieved and hurt…as rejoicing, and weeping. He is one with whom we are called into relationship, and relationships require give and take. But that shouldn’t mean that one party always gives and the other always takes.

We need to give God what we owe him, and a believing, grateful heart is the least of that. Yet it is very possibly the greatest blessing to the heart of him who loves us so much.