Why do you think it’s easier to be ungrateful than it is to be grateful? We all can come up with many excuses. I think there’s one central reason, but it may not be what you expect.
On Day 2 of the Gratitude Challenge, we looked at the grumpy old man and the cranky old woman none of us want to turn into. Today I want to take a closer look at why gratitude comes unnaturally or said in converse, why many of us are ungrateful.
Before I dig into the scriptures, I want to paint a picture that will be easy to understand.
An Ungrateful Story
When my daughter was born she received a blue baby doll that quickly became her prized possession. “Baby” went everywhere with her. You could say she loved that doll.
We went on a trip and “Baby” got left behind at the hotel. We didn’t realize our mistake until hundreds of miles later when our daughter became inconsolable. Our cheerful, grateful daughter became angry, demanding, and withdrawn.
Partially out of self-preservation and partially because we wanted to give a good gift to our daughter, we rapidly sought a replacement “Baby.” (And we looked for 3 substitutes for when Baby had to be washed or if she were destroyed or lost.) Problem averted. Our daughter responded with gratefulness and cheer. All was good.
Or was it? Had we taught her that being demanding leads to rewards?
The source of ungratefulness
In Romans chapter 1 Paul paints a striking contrast between people of faith and wicked, sinful people. Paul gives thanks for the faith of the Roman Christians (Rom. 1:8), but he declares a frightening statement about sinners: “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks” (Rom. 1:21).
As a Christian, it might be easy to dismiss this verse as talking about those sinners. And it is. But it also foreshadows the struggle Paul discusses later in Romans between the old man and the new man.
We can follow the same path where our minds become confused and cloudy about who God really is. This leads to folly and eventually idolatry.
Idolatry and ungratefulness
At the heart of our struggle with gratitude lies the continual war for our affections. Like Adam and Eve who gave in to the temptation that they could be like God, we wrestle to consistently place our faith in Christ alone. Our flesh wars with our spirit. As John Calvin declared, we are constantly tempted to bow to idols.
“Man’s nature is a perpetual factory of idols.”John Calvin
Have you ever questioned God’s wisdom? Of course, you have, if you’re honest. But have you shaken your fist at God and demanded he tell you why he allowed this or that to happen?
Thinking back on my daughter, she became angry with us because we didn’t turn around to go back and get Baby. She was mad because we “forgot” Baby. She wasn’t so sure she could trust that we love her.
I’m afraid we often think we know better than God and if we harbor these feelings it will lead to resentment, bitterness, and ingratitude.
A demanding spirit cannot be simultaneously grateful.Phil Mershon
The remedy for ungratefulness
After his lengthy description of the internal battle we all face, Paul declares, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25).
The remedy for ungratefulness is a deep appreciation for God’s love, redemption, affection, and deliverance. Until we understand and appreciate that all of life is a gift, we will remain demanding. Until we truly accept God’s undeserved favor and mercy, we will think we’re a bigger deal than we really are.
Ungrateful people think the world revolves around them. Grateful people know better.
Another ungrateful story
Watch what happens in a restaurant. Do you demand that your waitress make you her sole customer and solve all your problems? Immediately! After all, you are the paying customer, and did you know that TIP stands for “To Insure Promptness?!”
What if instead, you responded to her with thankfulness? What if when something goes wrong (which it will) you responded with understanding and appreciation? What if you found a way to make her day because you want to pass on the blessings you’ve received?
That’s how I would want to be treated and that’s how I want to live.
It starts on my knees before God.
The next time you’re in a restaurant or store, go out of your way to offer a specific word of thanks to the person who helps you. Thank them for serving you. Find three different things about them to compliment and thank. Expect nothing in return. Write in your journal about how it made you feel and what happened to that person.
Thank you, Lord, for your undeserved mercy and love. I praise you for delivering me from my sin. I ask you to help me to die to my demanding spirit and receive your lifegiving spirit. Show me ways to bless others today just as you have blessed me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.