Romans and Gratitude
By Richard Krejcir
Texts: Luke 17:11-19; Romans 1:18-21; and 12:1-3
Question: When you cut into your turkey this Thanksgiving, is it the prayer of thanks that is motivating you, or the greed of the feast?
Have you ever gone into your refrigerator and were overwhelmed with disgust by seeing and smelling a sordid brown goo in the vegetable crisper? Perhaps a crisp green broccoli florets and an eggplant meant for a scrumptious meal was forgotten, so it turned into a hideous mess that needed a pair of tongs, heavy gloves and a clothespin on your nose to remove it. Then there was the repulsive duty to wash the refrigerator and get rid of that smell.
Have you ever thought that could be you? Not literally, but perhaps as God sees you when our arrogance has turned our fruits of the Spirit into rotten smelly disgusting rot.
Yet there is a hope, a cure to the mess in the refrigerator – it is to use the vegetables while they are fresh, and replenish them regularly. The same is true with us; we need to be refreshed and cleansed, so we do not turn into rotten, brown, smelly goo.
One of the foundational doctrines from the Reformation is Gratitude. Because we are saved by grace, by no effort or work by our means, we should have a response to it. This response is our gratitude toward God, and what He did for us. Although this gratitude is not required, or even needed, for our redemption, it is an honest sign that we have been bought by His shed blood and that we are His children. Because if we received such an incredible gift, it should invoke an incredible response, at the very least. That response is our thanks.
That thanks should transition to all that we do in life, and how we are to treat others around us! It will help govern us with a sense of who we are in Christ, and see our call and purpose as to give Him glory. Not to be full of ourselves, when we are to be full of Him! Gratitude will allow us to see our pride and arrogance as evil, clouding the Spirit’s work within us. It will be a beacon on how ingratitude hinders our work to share Christ’s character and the salvation message to those around us. Gratitude is the proof text that we are indeed believers and living the Christ-like life, so that the fruits of the Spirit are flowing through us, and not the rotten vegetables of our sinful nature.
The Problem of Ingratitude!
1. Romans starts with the universal condemnation of all humanity (Rom.1:18-21). There can be no good news, no grace without there first being bad news. The bad is our sin and separation, and the good is the Grace to redeem. If it were not for our sinful nature and rebellion, our separation from God, then the sacrifice of Christ, would not have been needed (Matt. 5:17-20).
Then in Romans1:21, “For although they knew God, they neither gloried him nor gave thanks to him…” (NIV) gives us the message that knowledge was not the problem; it was because they refused to accept and obey the message. They refused to give thanks for their most gracious Lord. Perhaps even despising the very nature of God. This attitude transitioned into the rest of their lives as well.
- The Christian can grow into a state of ingratitude, refusing to yield to God. This results in bitterness, selfishness and hatred toward God, ourselves and those around us (Isa. 14:12-15).
- Our foolish hearts become black with pride, producing a barren heart devoid of seeking our true purpose in life. A fertile heart produces a lifestyle of gratitude and glory.
- Sin begets more sin; ingratitude produces strife, gossip, slander, malice, and conflict that destroys His work within us and in those around us.
- The church then becomes a club, a place of unhappiness because the rotten vegetables of ingratitude have taken over, versus the church of joy filled with an outpouring of gratitude toward God for His grace, spilling out to each other and the community. What is spilling out from your church?
- Ingratitude is a common entity in our society and even the church. It no longer condemns the person as a social misfit; now they are cool!
- The prideful people confuse God with themselves, thinking we are naturally good, when only He is good. God provides the escape from sin, yet we keep letting the sin in and keep Him out.
- God still outpours His grace upon us, even when we keep demonstrating our contempt to His goodness.
2. When we are truly acting like His children, there should be no outpouring of ingratitude – not in the church, and not in our lives. Because we know who we are in Christ and what He did, that incredible act of redemption will permeate our lives with gratitude, or so it should (John 13:17)!
- The duty of the Christian is to glorify God (Rom. 12:1; Col. 3:17), because the source of all we have and all of our potential is in and from God!
- The duty of pride is to glorify the self. When this happens we nullify our first commandment, because we are to have no other God’s before us – including ourselves!
- One results in Christian character, the other produces strife. When the heart and the church are filled with Adoration to God (Eph. 5:19-20), Trust to God, and Thanksgiving to God and others, that is not a turkey (pun intended), we will be fulfilling the Kingdom of God, His perfect and pleasing plan.
- When you cut into your turkey this Thanksgiving is it the prayer of thanks that motivates you, or the greed of the feast (Luke 16:10; Phil. 2:14; 4:8)?
- We have to be aware of our human nature that seeks the easy way out; that seeks rebellion with our Lord. It is easy to be ungrateful; it is hard to give thanks.
What can we do to infuse ourselves with gratitude?
True, Thanksgiving is based in Scripture, giving thanks to God. That is what the pilgrims did, as they fled religious persecution to a harsh land to exercise their faith (Matt. 5:17-20; I Thess. 5:18).
True, Thanksgiving looks to what Christ did on our behalf. It is His supremacy that matters and should drive us with gratitude! Remember when we turn our lives over to Him, the Holy Spirit enters and starts to change our character.
But God (although He can) will not overpower or force you, so you must be willing to allow His gracious intrusion. We must cooperate with the grace we received so He can change us, so we can be a change agent to others around us (Luke 16:10; John 13:17; Phil. 2:12-13; 4:8; Col. 3:17).
- What comes to your mind when someone says thanksgiving?
- What does your family do for thanksgiving?
- What are your favorite Thanksgiving foods?
- What motivates you in life: Is it the turkey feast (any form of greed or lust for power, money, manipulation…) or the feast (grace) He gave?
- When someone thanks you, how do you feel?
- Read Luke17:11-19 and pay attention to the feelings of our Lord Jesus! Remember He was also fully human!
- What do you suppose it was like to have leprosy? They were totally inflicted with the most hideous disease imaginable, that makes AIDS look like a common cold! If you had it, then all of your friends, relatives and society must shun you. You have to go live in a cave and hope someone brings you stale scraps to eat. It was feared more than death.
- So they were healed! How do you think they felt to regain all of their life and health?
- Why did the 9 choose not to return and give thanks?
- What might be some of the excuses the lepers might have had?
- What excuses do you give for not thanking people?
- What do you think the one who came back was feeling?
- What do you suppose Jesus’ feelings were that only one came back?
- Who in the story do you find yourself most like?
- Do you give thanks regularly?
- How much of your praise time with God is saying “thank you” for what He did for you?
- What is one thing that you are most thankful for?
- How has Christ healed you (consider more than just health, such as spiritually, emotionally…)?
- What things in your life do you have trouble seeking thanks for?
- What do you need to thank God for?
- What people are in your life that you need to thank?
- Make a commitment to thank the people in your life, by writing them a letter, or telling them in person – please no email for this one.
- Write a list of all that you are thankful for. Then read that list daily, post it on the refrigerator to keep ‘your’ fruits and vegetables from rotting!
- Make a commitment to spend at least two minutes a day to thank God for what you have, even in times of trouble and tribulation (I Thess. 5:18).
- Make a commitment to thank people, especially those who go out of their way for you and others, such as a parent, teacher, or friend!
- Use these Scriptures to count your blessings (start off by taking two a day): Psalm 30:4-5; 12; 75:1; 97:10-12; 105:1; I Chron. 29:6-13; Dan. 2:23; Mark 1:15; John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 27:34-35; Rom. 1:8; 6:17-18; 8:26-27; I Cor. 1:4; 15:55-57; II Cor. 2:14; 9:15; 12:9; Eph. 1:18; 5:20; Phil. 1:3-5; 2:9-11; 4:6; Col. 1:12; II Thess. 1:2-3; 5:18; I Tim. 4:3-5; Heb. 2:3; 12:28; James 1:2-4; Rev. 11:16-17. Now consider what it is like in a 3rd world country, or 100 years ago, and compare that with all we have and all the conveniences today!
- What are you thankful for in your relationship, family, friends, and fellowship?
- What are you thankful for in your material blessings, such as your stuff, comfort, and entertainment…?
- What are you thankful for in your health?
- What are you thankful for in your job/school? (Stuck? Then think about all of the choices we have that most people in the world do not.)
- What are you thankful for in your knowledge, such as education access to information…?
- What are you thankful for in your transportation? (Sound strange to you? Not to the people I visited in Russia!)
- What are you thankful for in your communication? (Sound strange to you? Not to the people I visit and minister to in Mexico!)?
- What are you thankful for in your Technology? (Remember how convenient everything is today)?
- What are you thankful for that is not in the above categories?
- So according to the above list, are you rich or poor?
- What can you do to be a person who lives a life of gratitude?
If you need Scriptures on what to be thankful for, get a “Bible Promise Book,” that lists Scriptures in various categories, such as, “The Golden Treasury of Bible Wisdom” by Barbour Press.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying the holiday of Thanksgiving, spending time with the family, watching the game, eating all of the turkey and trimmings. So enjoy it! But if you are a Christian, remember what our Lord has done for you. Our purpose is to glorify Him, and respond to the gift of grace we have received, and one of the ways we do this by thanking Him (Col. 3:15; I Thess. 5:18). And keep in mind all that you have, even if it is not much. Be a person who gives thanks; who is motivated by gratitude and not by greed!
(c) 2001 Into Thy Word Ministries Richard J. Krejcir
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Founder and Director of "Into Thy Word Ministries," www.intothyword.com a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of, "Into Thy Word," and "A Field Guide to Healthy Relationships." He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California (M.Div.) and Canbourne University in London, England (Ph.D, Doctor of Philosophy in Practical Theology). He has garnered over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant.