Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Virtue of Giving Thanks: An Antidote to Arrogance

We don’t give thanks for things we believe we have done on our own.  If we were not given any help, than what are we to give thanks for, and to whom should we give thanks?  A pattern of thanklessness like this is not a surface problem; it betrays a deeper issue – the problem of pride.  We are the source of our strength.  We are the beneficiaries of our own cleverness and intelligence.  We have taken care of ourselves just fine.

But is pride a problem?  Can we be legitimately proud of ourselves without negative consequences?  Arrogance, as it turns out, has deep and character-forming costs.  Arrogance is the stance that God is not necessary for the work of my daily life.  I may believe that God can save the day when things get really complicated, and I probably get angry with him when things don’t go my way, but outside of the extremes of life I have things under control and don’t need God’s intervention.  But a point of view like this one turns us into people without faith, heart, and the intellect God wants for us.

Paul describes the corruption of a thankless life: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).  These same thankless people are later described as becoming, “foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Romans 1:31).

There are severe consequences to a person’s soul and character if they are not able to genuinely thank God.

Thanking God for the simplest of things is a great place to start.  God, the Creator, put the sun, moon, and stars into the sky.  He created a cycle of light, water, plant and animal life that makes life itself possible for each of us.  The very air we breathe is a gift from the hand of a wondrous, powerful and loving God.  We thank God for fresh air, for the warmth of the sun, for a beating heart, and for an attentive mind.  And when we do, we begin to notice how dependent upon God we are for every moment of life.

Thanking God for the skills and talents he gave you is another good place to begin.  God warned his people that when they entered the Promised Land and became prosperous they would be tempted to think that they had “done all these things” (Deuteronomy 8).  They would get past the difficulties of creating arable farm land and the first years of vineyards and crops, and in the shadow of their labors in the sun they would think that their hands had given them everything they needed.  But who gave them hands?  Who gave them the knowledge they needed to tend to the land properly?  Who removed the giants in the land?  When we thank God for both our abilities and the fruits of our labors, our attention moves from our hands and minds to the God who formed them and filled them with His grace.

From thanking God for the things around and in us, we will want to move to thanking God for Himself.  We will want to begin naming the character traits of God and thanking Him for each and every one.  He is my Provider.  He is my Lord, Redeemer, Savior and Friend.  He is my Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  He is the Only Wise God.  At each thunderous attribute, pause in thanksgiving, allowing the Holy Spirit to fill you with Him, and to overflow in the thanksgiving of praise.

A heart and mind filled with this kind of thanksgiving simply does not have room for the squalor of arrogance.  It is too busy being overwhelmed with the greatness of their God.

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