written by Mary LaMastus
Receiving a gift is a funny process if you ever consider it. The thing about receiving a gift is that in its essence, we trust that behind the wrapping will reveal something we want, yet we ultimately do not get to control what it encompasses. Though we might have suggestions and we think we know what we truly desire, we do not get to choose what will behind the wrapping.
We simply choose how we will react to the gift.
There are two postures to take when receiving something: entitlement or gratitude.
One of these themes will reign in our receiving. Only one of these will triumph in our heart, and the choice is ours.
So how do we choose gratitude? What does a grateful heart understand that an ungrateful heart does not?
I have found that a grateful heart is humble, while an ungrateful heart is prideful.
This is true for two reasons:
Firstly, humility attests that only God knows what is best for us.
The core of an ungrateful, spiteful heart is this:
We believe that our plans, our suggestions, our desires, our ideas are better than God’s gifts. Simply, we do not trust Him.
James is severe in his description of the result of the desire to control God. He tells us that when we hold on to these desires to control, to advise God of what is best, and believe that we know better than God, it will lead to death.
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” (James 1:14-16)
He urges us not to fall into the deception of thinking we know better than God. But James continues with a promise, that our Father knows what is best, and He will give it to us, whether we think is it good or not. (James 1:17)
Humility admits that God always knows better than us, and therefore, we are free to always praise the gifts He sends us.
Secondly, humility admits that we are unworthy.
It is easy to fall prey to the thinking that we warrant something from God, yet thankfulness allows no room for such a mindset.
Gratitude cleanses. It washes us of our greed, rinses our most grievous covetousness, refuses the illusion of hard-earned work, relieves us of our sense that “we earned this.” This is also what often makes gratitude hard.
In a give-and-take, capitalist society, we tend to over-estimate our merit and forget our debt. Gratitude is hard because we have to face the reality that we deserve nothing. Ultimately, we did nothing to earn any sort of kindness, and thankfulness makes us admit that.
It attests that, yes, it all is an undeserved gift. It is scandalously beautiful because we do not deserve to behold it.
Yet it’s also so liberating to know it never depends on you and me. His blessings are never based on our merit. It is so weepingly and paralyzingly wonderful to know that we have a God who lavishes us with boundless treasures. That He entrusts us with His world.
All in all, humility is hard.
It is hard to admit I don’t know everything.
But the person who chooses gratitude understands that it leads to the most deep and fulfilling joy.
As we lay down our efforts to control, admit that we are undeserving, and thankfully embrace God’s good gifts, joy will dominate our lives.
As gratitude washes off the dirt of entitlement, it also replaces the sin with intense, unmerited joy.
As we choose gratitude, joy becomes the overarching theme in our lives.
Joy lives beyond our grasping control. Joy rejoices in His sovereignty. Joy overflows when we choose to praise God for everything He has given.
Joy recognizes that He always gives us beyond what we deserve.
We earn destruction; He repays us in life.
We earn isolation; He puts us in families.
We earn hunger; He allows us living bread.
We earn every eternal punishment; He offers us the most eternal gift.
Gratitude gives birth to joy. Joy is where abundant life lives.
The person that lived gratitude best was God himself. The most deserving person ever, the Son of God himself came to Earth to be embodied humility for us. With open hands, grateful for every gift the Father gave Him, He endured ultimate humility for the “joy set before Him” (Hebrew 12:2).
Jesus, the most deserving and righteous person ever who could have chosen easily to never be separated from His Father, exhibited humility and gratitude, because it lead to joy.
And after all, what greater gift could we ask for?