The Soul Needs Gratitude
In Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, he offered some new rules to help them live more authentically as followers of Christ. False teaching had introduced heresy into the church, and Paul wanted to remind them to practice the very attitude of Jesus as they interacted with each other and their neighbors. After listing such qualities as compassion, kindness, patience, humility, and the like, he ends this section of his letter with an appeal for gratitude:
“And be thankful. . . . sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God through him.” (Colossians 3:15, 16, 17, NIV)
In another of his letters, he exhorts Christians to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Remember, these people had been redeemed by God — followers of Jesus — yet they needed to be reminded to be grateful. Not just when things go well, but in all circumstances. If anyone would practice gratitude, shouldn’t it be Christians? The truth is, all of us can get so caught up in ourselves that we too often don’t take the time to be grateful — to God and to others.
More gratitude will not come from acquiring more things or experiences, but from more of an awareness of God’s presence and his goodness. It’s a way of looking at life, always perceiving the good. Gratitude is a by-product of a way of seeing things, and it always involves three factors. The language is a little unusual, so you will just have to bear with it. It comes from the old Latin word bene, which meant good, and gratitude will always involve three benes.
First, the benefit. In order to be grateful, you have to receive and recognize a gift that you believe is good. You find it favorable. The Bible says, “Praise the Lord, my soul . . . and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things . . .” (Psalm 103:2-5, NIV) It doesn’t get any better than that, does it? But the important thing to remember is that God does all this. These are the benefits he gives us, and the soul responds with gratitude.
Second, gratitude requires that there be a benefactor. Again the little word bene, Latin for “good,” this time coupled with factor, which is related to the word factory. A benefactor is one who does good, a little factory that produces good. To be truly grateful you must not only recognize the benefits or gifts that come your way, but that they are not just random acts; they are not accidents. They are coming from Someone who has good intentions for you. To be grateful as a Christian, you must believe that the good that is in your life comes from God. Not from your own efforts or merit. Not from others who might want to impress or manipulate you for their gain. The apostle James writes, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights. . . .” Light is an expression of goodness, and when we consider what he has done for us and what he has given us, our souls are grateful.
In addition to the benefit and the benefactor, there is the beneficiary: the one who receives the good gifts of God. And that’s you. You are the beneficiary of the benefits of a God who has your best interests at heart, and this is going on all the time. When we take that for granted or believe we deserve his gifts, then we are no longer grateful; you can’t be grateful for something you believe you are entitled to, and without a grateful heart the soul suffers. Because the soul needs gratitude.