February 25, 2016

Value of Gratitude

Being thankful, or not, reveals much about a person. Those who are thankful seem to be more apt to acknowledge being needy. They also realize that someone else provided for them, maybe even God. Thankfulness is a biblical virtue, even commanded.

It used to bother me if I gave something to someone and they didn’t thank me. I felt disappointed and unappreciated. However, God has shown me that I should badly for their sake. Anyone who has forgotten or neglects to be thankful is missing out on gratitude, which is very important to Him.

Chambers says it is natural to expect some return when we are helpful or generous. This is true. However, God looks for spiritual fruit in the lives of others as a response to His grace. That suggests that if a person is not thankful, or does not acknowledge love and kindness, then a Spirit-filled person will feel badly also, not for being unappreciated but from a concern that the recipient is missing out on being grateful. Paul illustrates this when he wrote to the Christians in Philippi. He told them . . .

Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. (Philippians 4:16–17)

The above serves as explanation for something I noticed this morning. The devotional reading used a different translation from what I use. The New King James Version says this:

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. (2 Corinthians 12:15)

From the way it is translated, it looks like Paul is talking about serving them along the lines of, ‘I do not care whether you love me or not, I am willing to destitute myself completely, not merely for your sakes, but that I may get you to God.’ In other words, the focus is about making a sacrifice regardless of the response.

However, the version I use gives a different perspective, one that I like better. It says:

I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? (2 Corinthians 12:15, English Standard Version)

In this translation, Paul seems to be looking for a return, even asking a rhetorical question as if his readers should understand this should be their response to his ministry. He reflects the clear teaching in the Bible that sinners do not love God until we realize how much He loves us. This applies also on a human level. If someone loves us to the point of being spent for us, should we not love that person in return?

The original language agrees with that idea. Paul isn’t offering the example of selfless service to point out that the more he is rejected, the more he will love them. This isn’t about him, but about what he wants to see in their lives. He is glad to serve them selflessly, but expects that they will respond to his love.

Jesus gave Himself for me. The Bible says: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

The point either way is that I do things for others without reserve just as Jesus died for sinners whether they responded or not. Paul preached to everyone, regardless of their response. The ministries to the homeless in our city feed these men and women whether they are thankful or complain about the food.

From this, it seems that willingness to serve others without a return is important, yet doing it with hope that there will be a fruitful response is more like Jesus, more like Paul. I am not to martyr myself in service with a focus on ‘look how sacrificial I am’ but with a focus on, “God, use this to bring forth a godly response that pleases You and blesses those who bear the fruit.”

For the family: My brother-in-law’s funeral is March 5.

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