Many people have pointed out the irony of the fact that America’s day of celebrating thanks is followed by (or, in recent years, potentially eclipsed by) the materialistic rush of Black Friday buying.
Contentment and thanksgiving are truly elusive in our day. Perhaps they’re more easily noticeable in our outspoken teenagers’ hearts than our own, but if we take an honest look at what we’ve modeled for them, we’ll probably see some thanklessness in our own lives, too.
Why is thanklessness such a big deal? Well, let’s take a look at Romans 1.
You’re probably familiar with the description of all kinds of sexual perversion to which “God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts,” (v. 24) but from what tree do such debased fruits grow? If we look back at verse 21, we see that “when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful.” And yet, how often do we dismiss our own covetous, grasping ways as “normal” and acceptable?
Are we modeling and helping our teens to live out the prayer expressed in the song “Simple Living”?
Oh teach me Lord to walk this road,
The road of simple living;
To be content with what I own
And generous in giving.
And when I cling to what I have,
Please wrest it quickly from my grasp.
I’d rather lose all the things of earth
To gain the things of heaven.
The tenth commandment, “Thou shalt not covet” is not the only issue, here; notice this key phrase in Romans 1:21: “they glorified him not as God.” This infraction of the first of the ten commandments is also a clear transgression of what Christ calls the greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37).
If the issues of covetousness and thanklessness are the trees from which all kinds of fleshly fruits grow, then the roots of that tree are found in a backwards theology. Don’t get scared: All “theology” means is how we think about God. Regardless of what our church’s statement of faith may be, our practical theology may be far from sound. Each time we think we’re undeserving of difficulties or believe we’ve been robbed of what we deserve, we’re revealing our misunderstanding of our own sinfulness and of God’s ultimate mercy, grace, and power.
In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul demonstrates the fact that his contentment was rooted in something beyond his circumstances: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” The author of the oft-quoted twenty-third Psalm also understood that with the Lord as his Shepherd, nothing else was worthy of his craving.