The practice and discipline of being grateful is an important practice in our lives. We are called by God to “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good; His love endures forever” – I Chronicles 16:34. In I Thessalonians 5:18 Paul reminds us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ.” God calls us to be thankful for everything that happens in our lives, the good, the bad and the ugly. It is good for us to stop, consider our lives and be thankful for who God is and what He has done.
Leading short-term mission trips to places where people live in poverty it is not uncommon to hear people say that seeing these people caused them to be more grateful for what they have in their lives. Others, as a result of meeting people living in poverty, will say things like, “God has blessed me with so much.” Other times, these experiences cause us to feel or think, “I should be thankful for my life because others have it worse than me.” Though it is true, there are people in the world who have it worse than you, our thankfulness should not be based on what we have compared to what others don’t have. Our wealth, good health, and living conditions are not the only way God blesses people’s lives. In fact, wealth may be a wrong indicator of blessing.
Jesus said something that flipped the paradigm of His day as to who is blessed. During Jesus’ time, people believed that if you had money and were healthy you were blessed by God; very similar to today. But Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 5 that those who are blessed are also those who may not have material possessions but posses these important attributes.
- Blessed are the Poor in spirit
- Blessed are those who mourn
- Blessed are the meek
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice
- Blessed are the merciful
- Blessed are the pure in heart
- Blessed are the peacemakers
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice sake
- Blessed are those who are reviled and persecuted
I have met countless people who do not have wealth or good health, but they are blessed. They are blessed in relationships, blessed in a deeper and vibrant faith, blessed in the more important things in life than wealth.
If we stop at being thankful for what God has blessed us with, our spiritual life can become stale. Being thankful for what God has done in our lives and what He has given us should drive us beyond being thankful into action. Let us turn our prayer of thankfulness into using what we have for the benefit of others, especially those who have less than we do. Let us turn our thankful heart into the compassionate hands and feet of Jesus by using what we have and leverage it make a real and tangible difference in the world today. Let us not become stale in our thankfulness but be moved with compassion and use our wealth, our privilege, our advantages to help alleviate poverty, racism, discrimination, serve refugees, immigrants, and any other person or people group who are on the underside of life and struggling.