I was reflecting this morning on Thanksgiving and the question arose in my mind, “What does it really mean to be thankful?” In light of the fact that the Bible tells us, “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT), I think it is crucial that we understand what true gratitude really entails.
It was Aesop who noted that, “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” And the Roman philosopher Cicero added, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
Why would these ancient philosophers be inclined to think that way?
The first thing that comes to my mind is that gratitude must be more than saying “thank you” occasionally when someone does something for us – It must be a lifestyle.
If Cicero is right one of gratitude’s “children” would have to be humility. True thankfulness has as its base a lack of pride and arrogance and acknowledges the contributions others have made in our lives. Things we could never do for ourselves no matter how self-sufficient we think we are.
And then there is meekness. That’s not a popular word in our culture I know. In western civilization it denotes weakness, but nothing could be further from the truth. For a Christ follower, to be meek means that we are not overly impressed by a sense of our self-importance but, rather, that we treat others with gentleness, courtesy and consideration because we have a keen appreciation for others’ Spirit – enabled talents and abilities. It is only when we learn to truly value others and their abilities which God has deposited into their lives that we can fully express the kind of thankfulness that acknowledges the full range and expression of God’s love demonstrated through his sovereign work in creation.
The last of gratitude’s “children”, that I thought about at least, is perseverance. What I mean by that is being thankful for what we have received in our lives rather than being bitter and covetous over what others have been favored with and celebrating with them in their blessing, all the while continuing to have faith that our goals are going to be realized one day.