With much anticipation and excitement my youngest daughter opened her birthday presents. Once the boxes were open and the cards all read, she couldn’t wait to begin playing with her new toys. Before she began to play, I stopped her and asked, “What do you say to everyone?” “Thank you,” she replied to her grandparents and siblings. Then off she ran to play without a second thought. As I reflected on that moment, I realized something. I have taught my daughter to say the words “thank you,” but have I taught her to live with a thankful heart? Has the word “thank you” just become a password that a polite child must say every time they get a gift, with little thought to what they are saying or about the person who gave the gift? The other question I must ask myself is have I learned to live with a thankful heart? A heart that knows thankfulness is more than just a word?
For many years I looked at the things we had and thought to myself, “We have these things because we have worked hard.” While that is partially true, I left little room in my heart to recognize that it was God who had given us the opportunities, the open doors, the abilities, and even our very breath. I knew in my mind this was true, however it really didn’t penetrate into my heart. When I stood in church on Sunday or prayed at home I was thankful for the things the Provider had provided, but was I truly thankful for the Provider?
Was I really any different than my little girl who said the words “thank you” out of politeness
but never stopped to truly give thanks?
Too often we become focused on the gift rather than the giver. This is easy to do when most of us have grown up never missing a meal and always having a roof over our heads. Many times we feel entitled, expecting the latest and greatest gift on our birthday and Christmas. The emphasis is often placed on the greatness of the gift received, not the love or sacrifice of the giver. Unfortunately this attitude is often carried over into our view of what the Lord does for us.
As my husband and I have let go of what we can accomplish in our own ability and followed the Lord where He wants us to go, I am starting to see things in a whole new light. I have begun to see everything we have as a gift from Him. In fact, James 1:17 tells us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” Now as we pull up to our house (a house we know that God provided), I have a deep sense of gratitude because I know it wasn’t something I made happen. It was a door that He opened up for us. When we eat I am truly thankful for His provision of our daily bread. The object of thankfulness isn’t the house or food (although I do enjoy it), but I now recognize everything I have is from my Heavenly Father who loves and cares for me.
My thankfulness comes from a sense of worship for who God is – my Provider.
In Luke 17:11-19 we see the story of ten lepers who are desperate to be healed. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem when he is greeted by them. Jesus tells the lepers, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” Then, as they went, they were cleansed.
One of the lepers comes back, and throwing himself at the feet of Jesus, expresses his gratitude. Jesus then asked, “If there were ten that were cleansed, why did only one come back to give thanks?” The thankfulness that the leper shows isn’t like the polite “thank you” from my five year old. It is a thankfulness that goes beyond words and comes from a worshipful heart. A heart that realizes without Jesus he would not have received healing.
I too am like the leper. I have been forgiven of my sins and given a new life. Jesus did something for me that I could never do for myself. He gave His life for my sins. As we approach the Easter season, I have to ask myself, “Will my gratitude reflect my 5 year old’s ‘thank you,’ or will it reflect the gratitude of the leper that said thank you by throwing himself down at Jesus’s feet?” Will I stop, reflect, and take the time to be thankful, not just with words, but also with my heart? Will I also diligently work to teach my children to have thankful hearts for what Jesus did for them? Will I let Easter become only about candy and new clothes, or will I work hard to use every opportunity to point them to Jesus? After all He is the one who did for all of us what we could never do for ourselves .