A grateful heart is the very center and core of true character. Gratitude is a forgotten art in our modern busy life. When gratitude dies, a man is well nigh done. His character is gone and his life will be empty.
When man lost his blessed estate with God and went down into dreadful defeat and perversion, what was the key to his downfall? Read Romans 1:21, “Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful…”.
Man’s downward plunge in sin has as one of its key sources an unthankful spirit. That spirit is manifest on every hand today.
A spiritual person is always a thankful person.
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6
“… be filled with the spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-20
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Colossians 3:16-17
What was it that caused that young man to leave the father’s home to end up in the pigpen of sin? Ingratitude! What was it that led him away from all the blessings of home, father, mother, gladness, and warmth? Ingratitude! Read the story in Luke 15 and see the result of ingratitude in that young life.
But with the heavenly host it is different. Their song is one of praise and thanksgiving.
“And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 7:11-12
The farmer was visiting in the home of an erudite city friend. He bowed his head at the meal. The city snob rebuked him, saying, “That’s old-fashioned. It is not customary nowadays for well educated people to pray at the table.” The farmer answered that with him it was customary but that there were some on his farm who never prayed over their food.
“Ah,” said the city gentleman, “they are sensible and enlightened. Who are they?”
“They are my pigs,” answered the farmer.
We all need to develop the grace of a grateful spirit. Learn to be thankful! I sat last night in a shoe store and watched a man buy another family shoes for ten children! The children picked out whatever shoes they wanted. I wondered if they even said thanks. They may have – but I did not hear it.
Many years ago when I was pastoring South Sheridan Baptist Church, we had a Vacation Bible School. The McDonalds’ hamburger place near us gave us orange drink and cookies for a gift to every child. They had a man come with the orange drink and hand it out as the children filed by. One of our workers came to me and said I must come and watch. As I stood there, I saw hundreds of junior boys and girls walk by and receive their orange drink and cookies and never say thanks. They took it for granted.
We are living in an ungrateful society and an ungrateful age. When things do not go well, we immediately cry to Washington or some governmental source for help. What we need to do is look up to God and thank Him for every provision. We find our children are ready to say thanks when we do nice things for them. We need to train our children to say thanks constantly. It is interesting to me how that I could drive children home after activities at church, let them out of the car, and often never hear a word of thanks.
If our children are going to be thankful, they must recognize a gratefulness on the part of their parents. A husband should be thankful for his wife, but too often that gratitude is only like a tuxedo, something to be worn at special occasions only. There was a time when that sweet girl was to him dear, sweet, gentle, kind, and good. He loved her personality and all about her. But now that he has her, she takes her place along with the electric stove, the refrigerator, the mixer, the television, and the other utilities.
A wife should be thankful for a hard-working, honest, loyal, sober husband, but too often she never shows her appreciation. That good man coming home at night is just routine like the gas that fires up the furnace. Oh, to breed a thankful spirit in our homes so that our children can grow up with a grateful attitude.
Our children, too, must learn to be thankful for their parents, for their home, for all the wonderful provisions they have, but how few really understand this matter of gratitude. I dare say that if we had children with the proper gratitude, we would not have young people running away from home to live in communes away from their parents. If we could have children that would honor the Lord with a grateful spirit, it would make a difference in all of their lives.
I close with a little legend written by Mildred M. North:
Two angels, so the legend ran,
Came to earth as the day began.
One carried a basket deep and wide,
The other a small one by his side.
Then spoke one of the heavenly pair:
“Oh, but this world is wondrous fair!
If it were not for Heaven I’d be content
To dwell on earth beneath the firmament.
My basket is large, I’ll soon begin
To gather men’s thanks, and pack them in.”
Said the other, “I’ll help you when I get done,
I’m to gather their wants in this little one,
And the sighs and murmurs of those who pout—
But it’s large enough, without a doubt.
God’s bounties are scattered on every side,
You’ll need your basket deep and wide.”
Away they sped, and as darkness came,
They met again, but not the same.
Both were weary, both were sad;
They’d found so little to make them glad.
Said he with the basket wide and deep,
“My heart is heavy. It makes me weep.
Look in my basket – you’ll discover
The Thanksgivings scarcely the bottom cover!”
“While I,” said the other, “have made three trips
With the wants and complaints from people’s lips!”
Only a legend – yes – and yet –
If the angels came, what would they get?
-Mildred M. North