November 1, 2012
Thanksgiving is a special time of year because it so often brings special times with family and friends. And, on a deeper level, it causes us to pause in the busyness of our lives to reflect on so many of the things we have for which to be grateful. Once a year is hardly enough, but, if we are wise we seize the opportunity Thanksgiving affords to express our gratitude to those, family and friends, who enrich our lives. Most of all, we give thanks to our great and gracious God, who is, as we sing, “the fount of every blessing.” He is lavish in his kindness and grace to us.
Karl Barth, the great theologian, observes that “Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth. Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo. Gratitude follows grace like thunder follows lightning.” But every parent learns very quickly that grace doesn’t always evoke gratitude. We need to teach our children, often with great difficulty, to say “Thank you.” I was reminded of that on a recent outing with my grandchildren, when they chose to bewail the one more they couldn’t take, childishly ignorant of how much their fun had already cost me. In their case, ignorance is some kind of excuse, but it reminded me of how easily I take things for granted rather than with gratitude!
But I have also been thinking about the connection between gratitude and generosity – not just generosity in narrow financial terms, but in my whole approach to life and people. I wonder whether true gratitude can ever be ungenerous. If I am really grateful for God’s forgiveness, can I fail to be generous with others in their shortcomings and failures? If I am truly grateful that others have given me the benefit of the doubt or the benefit of their time, can I fail to show that kind of generosity to others? If I am truly grateful that God has blessed me, can I be stingy with my money or my praise? I am convinced that an attitude of authentic gratitude cannot coexist with a grasping, stingy, or mean spirit. Gratitude is the seed of an openhanded, bighearted generosity, which then recycles to produce more gratitude. If that is so, then an infallible measure of my gratitude quotient will be my generosity quotient, extended not only vertically but horizontally.
Truly grateful people are generous people! And who has more reason to be grateful and generous than followers of our Lord Jesus Christ? We declare with Paul, as he points to the Lord Jesus, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). May this Thanksgiving be a time when both gratitude and generosity spill over!