Flashback: Will I take things for granted or with gratitude?
Gratitude isn’t always easy: Especially when things are not going the way I want!
As the youngest sibling in my home, my older brothers were allowed to stay up later than me. They were permitted to stay out with their friends, go places I couldn’t, and do more than I could. It seemed they were more privileged than me.
“It’s not fair,” I would complain to my mother. However, as much as I practiced to improve my whining skills, my pleas for justice seemed to fall on deaf ears.
My failure to get what I thought I deserved — and what I wanted — encouraged me to complain. “Why do I have to suffer when everyone else doesn’t? Why am I mistreated, when my brothers get to do whatever — and whenever — they want?”
Thankfully, I’m older — and hopefully, a little wiser. However, I’m aware: aging does not make me immune from complaining. Gratitude is costly.
It’s easy for me to observe what seems to be unfair and remain blind to my sense of entitlement!
Asaph was a man appointed by King Josiah to help oversee Temple worship. He reminds his fellow Israelites: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving…”
It’s not uncommon for worship to become routine — a form without substance. Asaph recognizes the solution to formalism is to worship in genuine faith. So he reminds his people (and us) to offer God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
In Old Testament Temple worship, making an animal or grain offering was common. However, Asaph’s directive indicates that God prefers an attitude of thanksgiving over a stipulated sacrifice.
The word for “thank offering” in Hebrew is tôdâh, from the verb yāḏâh, which means “to acknowledge, or to thank.” Asaph understands: unless a person experiences God’s work on her or his behalf, such an offering will be “formulaic,” not sincere.
Going through mechanical motions of worship is not a sacrifice of thanksgiving!
Charles Swindoll reminds us:
“Gratitude is a decision of the will, and if a decision of the will, the choice resides squarely with us. Deciding to be thankful is no easy task. It takes work.”
Recently, I was in church. As people were singing and the musicians playing, I found myself thinking: “I can’t believe how loud the guitars are. You can’t even hear the vocalists.” I had come to worship. No one was reading my mind — or my heart. But God was!
My silent complaining was interrupted: “Will you give up your desire for what you want? Will you quit complaining and worship Me?” At that moment I had to choose. Will I complain, or will I offer God a sacrifice of thanksgiving? Will my worship be in form only, or will it be pure?
To be grateful when I receive what I want is not a sacrifice of thanksgiving. It’s only relief that my sense of entitlement is validated.
Asaph is also aware of the injustice Israel is experiencing. However, he calls his people to “…pay their vows to the Most High [God].”
A promise is to be kept. When we pledge, we honor that covenant. God expected Israel to fulfill its obligation. And, God required Israel to fill its commitment in action — not just words. The wisdom of Solomon reminds us:
“When you make a vow to God, do not delay fulfilling it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Fulfill what you vow.” (Ecclesiastes 5:4)
Injustice (that which we view as unfair), does not release us from our obligation to be thankful, or responsibility to fulfill our pledge to God.
A sense of entitlement is not new. However, lately, it appears to me that it is on steroids! People are unhappy because they want more. They despair when their political bias is not supported. Many insist on an equal playing field, and complain that life is not fair!
But when has life ever been fair?
If we only focus on injustice, we fail to remember — and re-tell the stories — of God’s enduring, steadfast love (Psalm 107:1). A sense of entitlement diverts our attention toward what we want and overlooks what we may need.
Israel’s track record reveals that in times of plenty, they were quick to forget God! Asaph’s reminder was necessary for Israel. And it’s essential for us.
G.K. Chesterton presents a great question for us to consider when life seems unfair: “Will I take things for granted, or will I take them with gratitude?”
When life seems unfair, it’s critical that we offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving!
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:14-15)