Life in Juxtaposition
July 21, 2021
I saw a book recently with this chapter title: Leading Like Jesus When You Are Working with Judas. This week I saw an article titled Abounding in Thanksgiving in a World of Grumbling. Both titles directly illustrate that being a Jesus-follower puts us in juxtaposition to the ways of the world around us much of the time.
I want to think a little bit about the idea of being grateful when you are surrounded by grumbling and a lack of gratitude. This past weekend I asked the question, “How do you sustain relationships?” Whether it is with God, your spouse, kids, parents, friends, place of work, NewPointe, your neighbors—anywhere—it boils down to one thing: gratitude. When you stop being grateful for the relationship, you check out, whether it is with God or someone else.
You feel like you aren’t getting what you deserve. I’m going to use another word that is a little more ouchy: You aren’t getting what you feel you are entitled to have. Entitlement is the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. I know how you feel. We all think sometimes, “I just want to get what I feel I deserve; what is right and what is fair.” However, the truth is if we all got what we deserve, what is right and fair, none of us would survive. That is why we all need grace. We can’t afford to be narcissists with an inflated sense of importance and sense of entitlement; a large awareness of “what I deserve.”
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul tells us, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank Him because you believe in Christ Jesus.
The Passion Translation says it like this: “And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God’s perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus.” No wonder Paul tells us that God’s will is to always be grateful. Gratitude is being thankful for what is good and right. It isn’t just ignoring or denying the challenges and difficulties, but it is focusing on what is good and right.
What relationships have you ended over the last 15 months? Could it be that you became ungrateful?
The Bible contains much guidance about gratitude as well as the lack of it. God knows how we are made. He designed us to thrive when we are humble, moral, and thankful. When we are arrogant, immoral, and ungrateful, it is impossible to fellowship with Him or experience what it truly means to be created in His image. Ingratitude is not simply an attitude. It is a sin with severe repercussions. Romans 1:18–32 describes the downfall of a person or a society. Right there listed alongside idolatry and every kind of rebellion is ingratitude. Verse 21 says, “Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.” This tells us that God takes gratefulness—and ungratefulness seriously. As long as a person or a culture remains grateful and thankful to God, they remain sensitive to God’s presence. Thankfulness toward God requires belief at the very least, and ingratitude refuses to acknowledge Him (Proverbs 3:5–6; Psalm 100:4). When we refuse to be grateful, we grow hard-hearted and proud. We take for granted all God has given us and become our own authorities and gods.
2 Timothy 3:2 describes what people will be like in the last days, and one characteristic is ingratitude. When the human heart becomes infatuated with itself, there is no one to thank. We become convinced of our own greatness and think we earned all we have and more. Paul asked his friends these rhetorical questions: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
Dave Ramsey, who has spent his life helping people meet their financial needs, be able to help others, and thrive, has seen a big change in our culture. He says, “The growing entitlement mentality in our country is completely toxic, slowly eating away at our spirits like acid.”
Over and over again God warns us not to harden our hearts. When we harden our hearts to the point that we no longer clearly see God as the good and generous source of our gifts, we become our own authority. We are on a deep slide where anything is possible. It’s important to join God in a strong resistance to ingratitude because the end result is tragic. I need to remind myself often that all I am and all I have is an undeserved love gift from God (James 1:17). That guards me from the pride that will ruin all my relationships in time.