Recently, I was reading through some old back issues of Discipleship Journal magazine and came across an article entitled "No Thanks" by Christie Eastman. The author describes a scene one very cold winter in Bangladesh, where she was stationed with her family. Struck with the poverty of the children there, she sorted through the abundance of her son's clothes and began to distribute them randomly to the destitute mothers seeking handouts. Having been an American traveling in a struggling nation, I remember what it is like to walk down the street and be swarmed with people, often children, tugging at our clothing, seeking help. I could picture what Ms. Eastman was going through, so I kept reading. She goes on to describe how she gave a sweatshirt to a mother with a virtually naked baby on her hip. Instead of receiving it with gratitude and thanksgiving, she demanded more. In fact, she told the author that because she was American, she deserved to get something from her because she had so much already.
As I read that, I found myself, like Ms. Eastman, getting angry. What more does she want? Sheesh! Why don't you be happy with what you've already received, lady? It's one more piece of clothing than you already have! (Obviously, I have a long way to go when it comes to becoming more like Jesus.)
And then it hit me, just like it hit the writer---how often am I just like this woman? The Creator of the Universe has blessed me with eternal life and salvation, showered me with grace and mercy, filled me with His Holy Spirit, and provided me with every spiritual blessing I will ever need. And yet I still complain, thinking I deserve more. I really am not that different from this ungrateful beggar. Like King David after listening to the prophet Nathan's story, one that clearly pointed to him, all I can say is "I have sinned against the Lord." (2 Sam. 12:13)
Do I only live in the realm of the physical? Do I only see this world and all that is in it? Am I focused only on the things that I don't have rather than the abundance that God has blessed me with? Ms. Eastman, in response to the woman's demand, writes, "I felt as if she spit in my face." Is this how God feels when I fail to appreciate and thank Him for what He has blessed me with?
As an American citizen, I am beginning to realize how much I have been given. And yet in our culture there is always a greater thirst for more and more. For starters, we want more power, prestige, or possessions. In our quest for these things, we can forget that God has already given us infinitely more. Instead of seeing our abundance and wealth---spiritually and materially---we keep grabbing for more.
Hebrews 2:1-3a says this: "We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?" (emphasis mine). We have been given the greatest gift in Jesus. How often do I thank God for this great salvation? Or am I just focused on what I don't have? Are my prayers full of the "gimmes" or are they flooded with thanksgiving and gratitude?
Heavenly Father, I confess that I am guilty of ingratitude. My eyes are often short-sighted and filled only with the things of this world. After those things I hunger and thirst. Please forgive me, Father. Will You, in Your gracious and kind way, keep awakening my spirit to the greater things that You already have lavished on me. May all that I desire here on earth be placed in their proper perspective---not that I can't enjoy Your good gifts, but that they will not overshadow Your greater gifts. In the times when I am tempted to ask for more instead of counting my blessings, will Your Spirit prod and remind me to think of all You have blessed me with even as I present my requests to You? Thank You for all You have bestowed on me through Jesus. It's in His name I pray, Amen.