What do you think is the opposite of gratitude? Do you think it’s ingratitude?
I think I’ve been getting it all wrong. Just yesterday on Day 23 I suggested that reciprocity might be the greatest enemy of thankfulness.
Then I spoke with a counselor friend of mine. We talked about the root system of sin in our lives and how we tend to just pull off the leaves and leave the roots untouched.
If you have an area of sin in your life that’s affected you for years or decades, it’s likely there’s a deep root system with many emotions connected to it. Gardners know it’s hard work to unroot noxious weeds. How much more so, the noxious sin patterns in our lives?!
The opposite of ingratitude
While thinking about this, I read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In chapter 5 he said something that made me realize I’m getting it all wrong. The opposite of gratitude is not ingratitude. At least not at the core.
Let me explain.
Ephesians 5:4 says: “Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.”
Could it be that the opposite of immorality, impurity, and greed is thankfulness? That seems to be what Paul implies.
Reading further Paul contrasts the ways of folly with the ways of wisdom. He calls them dark and light. Ultimately, he says that immorality and impurity are idolatry (see Eph. 5:5). For example, he tells us not the get drunk with wine, but instead to be filled with the Spirit.
Now he’s getting to the root system. At the core of all noxious sins stems idolatry expressed as self-centeredness. We can’t be grateful when we’re consumed with greed, immoral thoughts, and secrecy.
In contrast, the Holy Spirit fills the believer’s root system with life, joy, and love.
The root system of ingratitude
Have you noticed how roots are always underground? We can only tell what kind of roots grow by the fruit they produce. Roots filled with immoral and impure thoughts produce coarse talk and deeds that Paul calls “shameful even to talk about.”
Ingratitude slowly seeps into the soil of our hearts. Words of gossip, an impure thought, and a dose of selfish ambition slip in to take our eyes and hearts off of Jesus. We start to think we’re entitled and deserving. Before you know it, the roots of ingratitude wrap our hearts like a noxious weed.
How do you dig out noxious roots?
Gardners utilize a diverse toolkit to remove noxious weeds. A combination of digging, poison, and fertilizer makes it possible to temporarily ward off the worst weeds. Untended, a garden always remains susceptible to the return of noxious weeds.
In our spiritual lives, God uses the word, the light, singing, and intentional thankfulness to irradicate sinful patterns.
When you expose sin to the light of day, the light acts as a disinfectant, reducing its allure and power. As Paul told the Ephesians, “But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible” (Eph. 5:13-14).
Intentional gratitude is the answer
I’ve noticed I’m most vulnerable to temptation when things seem to be going well. That’s when I start to coast, let down my guard, and forget what got me to where I am.
Can you relate?
Paul calls us to not be thoughtless. Instead, he says, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Eph. 5:16). Our battle plan requires intentional action. Each and every day, all day long. For an example of a battle plan, Craig Groeschel, pastor at Life.Church, reveals a 4-part plan for porn.
Our intentional action plan involves daily and constant choices to be filled with the Spirit, sing songs, make music to the Lord, and give thanks for everything.
Gratitude is the starting and finish line
I don’t think it’s a mistake that Paul started this passage by saying the opposite of coarse talk is thankfulness and then ended the passage by again telling us to give thanks for everything.
Thankfulness provides evidence of a heart that has been radically changed by God, but thankfulness is also our greatest weapon in combatting selfishness and idolatry.
I suppose ingratitude is the opposite of gratitude on the surface. But at the fundamental root, the difference is literally day and night, light and dark, good and evil.
Will we be consumed with satisfying our own desires or will we express gratitude for everything we have?
Buy some seeds (or a bulb) and plant a flower to cultivate during this challenge that will remind you to feed your heart with gratitude every day.
Father, I thank you for showing me light and truth every day. I particularly thank you for this insight that gratitude is a weapon against the selfishness and idolatry that seeks to consume my heart. Keep teaching me to be grateful for everything you give me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.