Grace and peace, saints.
A couple of weeks ago, my children and I were walking to the animal shelter, when I noticed that my son was wearing a rain jacket with a sweatshirt underneath instead of his winter coat. It was extremely cold this day, and I was perturbed with him, because we had discussed this before.
“I don’t like to wear my coat because it’s too warm,” he said, “I’d rather wear my rainjacket.”
“Which would you rather be on a cold day,” I said, “Too warm or too cold?”
He got the message, but I could tell he was a little upset. My son is almost fifteen; and as he is becoming more independent and mature, he is asserting himself more. One way he tries to assert himself is by dressing the way he likes, even if it doesn’t always make sense. I get that, but I also know that not everyone who wears a rain jacket on a cold winter day does so to assert his independence. Some do so because they have no other choice. I was such a person. Growing up, I didn’t always have a coat for the winter: in fact, most winters, all I had was a light jacket. All my life, all I ever wanted was a nice, warm coat.
God heard me, and I have not passed a winter without a coat in more than forty years. God has also blessed me to be able to provide a decent life for my children, and they have never known a winter without coats, a summer without shorts, or a house without heating or cooling. These are truly blessings, but sometimes we fail to recognize those blessings.
I am finding that one of the hardest lessons to teach a child is gratitude. It’s difficult for a person to appreciate something he’s never gone without. This is especially true of children. If a child has never been hungry, it’s difficult for him to appreciate being full. If he’s never been cold, it’s hard for him to appreciate being warm. And if he’s never been homeless, how should he appreciate having a roof over his head?
Gratitude is important to our prayer life
I’ve been talking to my children a lot lately about gratitude because gratitude is crucial to a Christian’s prayer life. When God blesses us, we ought to thank Him. In fact, we ought to be thanking Him every day we wake up. We ought to thank Him every morning we didn’t wake up dead. We ought to thank Him every morning we didn’t go to the hospital in the middle of the night. And, if it’s as cold where you live as it is where I live, you ought to be thanking the Lord Jesus every night you go to sleep in a warm bed and wake up to a warm home, because, I assure you, not everybody is.
Philippians 4:6 says that we should take our petitions to God in prayer but that we should do so with thanksgiving. That means that we ought not to just be asking God to do things for us, but we also should be thanking Him for what He has already done—especially feeding us, clothing us, putting a roof over our head, and protecting us. But, unfortunately, this is not the case.
Ingratitude and Blacks
By the way, if there were ever an ungrateful generation, it is the present generation; and if there were ever an ungrateful people, it is Black people—my people. Somebody is not going to like this, but it’s the plain truth. Black Americans are the descendants of slaves, a people who could not even own property, as they were themselves property. Now, tell me who, in their right mind, ever thought the day would come when Blacks would not only be free, but would own homes, found corporations, make important contributions to science, become doctors, lawyers, CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, and be professional athletes making hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Who would hath fathomed that a Black man would one day become President of the United States?
With all God has allowed Blacks to do, achieve, and, most importantly, have, you would think that we would be the most grateful, appreciative, and God-fearing people on the planet. Yet, Blacks are generally some of the most ungrateful, unappreciative, and God-hating people in the universe. We spend so much time talking about how far we still have to go, that we don’t appreciate how far we’ve come. We are always complaining and are rarely thankful. I know someone, for example, whom God has tremendously blessed. Yet, he is the unhappiest person I know. He has a job, a home, a car, a family, and is in relatively good health. Yet, all he does is complain about all the missed opportunities he’s had in life. He has lost all perspective. He’s forgotten his history to the extent that he no longer knows who he is and where he came from. He doesn’t realize that were it not for the hand of God on his life, he would not be getting paid for the work he does, let alone actually enjoying the fruits of his labor.
This guy never thanks God for anything. The other day, for example, he was extolling the virtues of the new coat he just bought, telling me how warm it is and how much he liked the large hood it has. As he was pointing out all it’s cool features, I said, “Well, as cold as it is this winter, praise God for blessing you with such a nice coat!” He reacted as though I hadn’t even mentioned God, and told me that as much as he liked the coat, he wished it were longer. Tragically, this man, rarely, if ever, gives God any praise for blessing him so much. He is ungrateful; and the worst part is that he claims to be be Christian.
If a Christian is going to be anything, he should first be grateful. Gratitude is important because, without gratitude, not only is it impossible for us to see and appreciate what God is doing for us, but it is impossible for us to recognize what He isn’t doing for everyone else. If we can’t see that God isn’t blessing everyone the same, then not only can’t we see and appreciate our own blessings, but we can’t appreciate the plight of those who are less fortunate than we are. And if we can’t appreciate their plight, then how can we pray for them? And if we can’t pray for them, then what kind of Christians are we after all?
Satan influences children to be ungrateful
This is how Satan is trying to influence my children. He makes sure that there is no one they can compare themselves with so that they can put their life in perspective. There are homeless people in Munich, for example, but I have never seen any homeless children. I have also never seen any children in my children’s school who look like they could use help. While this can be seen as a blessing, it can actually work like a curse, because since everyone seems to be doing so well, my children are unable to see how well they are actually doing. For example, there are kiosks in my children’s schools that sell food, and the other children are always buying snacks from those kiosks. I could tell my children sometimes felt odd because they took a sack lunch, while it seemed to them that many of the other children always had money to buy lunch. Sometimes children would even offer to buy them lunch.
For a time, this was having an effect on my children, because it was obvious that they felt poor compared to the other children. One of my daughters would often “forget” to take her lunch and ask my wife for money to buy lunch at school. Another daughter would always hound me to pay the materialgeld (money the schools ask for to defray the cost of paper, books, and other things) quicker, because all the other children would pay the money as soon as the teacher asked for it, whereas I would put it off for a couple of months or pay in installments. I perceived that my children were ashamed of being poor, because I experienced similar feelings as a child as well.
I had to explain to my children that poverty is nothing to be ashamed of, and that while they didn’t have money to buy lunch or snacks, they ate breakfast every morning and had at least a sandwich, a piece of fruit, and something to drink for lunch. And, while they may not have been able to hand in the materialgeld the day their teachers asked for it, they were able to hand it to them ultimately. With time they came to understand that the true blessing was just to be able to eat every day.
It is important that my children be grateful, because we live in Munich, one of the most idolatrous cities in the world. Satan knows that my children well understand that idolatry is an abomination to God, and because they know this, then it is highly unlikely that he could ever convince them to worship an idol, confess their sins to a priest, or consider the Pope of Rome to be Jesus Christ on earth. What he can do, however, is get them to be ungrateful. If everyone seems to be doing better than they are, and if every little boy and girl has five bucks in their pocket and an expensive cell phone (that’s another article), then it can be difficult for my children to see and appreciate how God is truly blessing them.
Ingratitude kills joy
Ingratitude is a trick of the enemy, and will kill a Christian’s victory and steal his joy quicker than most anything else. If Satan can’t get you to praise him, he will settle for you not praising God. And if you are not praising God, it is because you are ungrateful.
Ingratitude affects stewardship
In the parable of the talents, Jesus told of a man who went to a far country, leaving each one of his servants a sum of money: some little, some a little more, and some more than that. When he returned, the man found that those to whom he had given some had invested their money and received interest thereon, which they presented to their employer. The worker to whom he had given little, however, had merely buried his money, and had received no interest to show to his master. He had not been a good steward. Through this parable, Jesus taught that if one does well with just a few things, God will bless him with many things; but if a man do poorly with a few things, God will take away the little that he has. It’s impossible to be a good steward if you are not grateful for that which God has entrusted to your care, but are always wishing you had more or better.
Ingratitude leads to covetousness
Ingratitude almost always leads to covetousness; because if you are dissatisfied with what God has blessed you, you will begin to covet something “better.” And covetousness almost always leads to envy. And envy inevitably leads to hate. The covetous person usually ends up hating both himself and anyone he feels is doing better than he is. And it all starts with ingratitude. See how this can get terminal in a hurry?
The key to avoiding all this drama, then, is gratitude. We need to learn to appreciate what God has done for us—and not just the big things, but also the little things (like the cup of hot chocolate I’m enjoying as I write this). So, be grateful!
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1Thessalonians 5:18.)
Be encouraged, and look up; for your redemption draweth nigh.
The Still Man