Gratitude and Generosity
What is the best response to a feeling of gratitude?
This is Thanksgiving week in the USA, and we will gather on Thursday with family to give thanks to God for all His provision and blessings in our lives. One of the best responses to counting our blessings and feeling gratitude is giving thanks.
Most all of us appreciate a thank you note in the mail after giving a gift or hosting someone in our home. A heartfelt "thank you" means a lot, doesn't it? And most of us have felt something between mild disappointment and anger when we have done something nice for someone else without even so much as a "thank you" in return.
Of course, it adds insult to injury when we bless someone with food or clothing or gas money or help with rent and they not only don't say "thank you," their response is to tell us we didn't do enough or they need more. Knowing that we can feel used or taken advantage of when we give and there is no gratitude, we ought to be motivated to be people of thanksgiving when we receive a blessing - either from God or from another person.
Perhaps one great way to celebrate Thanksgiving this week would be to buy a pack of Thank You Cards, write a few notes to people who have blessed our lives, and send them out on Monday. Expressing thanks is certainly a great response to a feeling of gratitude.
But there is another response in Scripture that might be even better.
In 1 Chronicles 28 and 29, King David is old and nearing death. He wants to honor God by building a lavish Temple to replace the worship-in-a-tent Tabernacle that had been the center of Israel's worship since the time of Moses. But God tells David that his son, Solomon, would be the one who would build the Temple David had in mind.
So David provides what is needed for the building of the Temple. He lines everything up so Solomon will be able to begin immediately upon taking the throne and build the tribute to Almighty God that David had envisioned. He even gives very, very generously toward its building from the royal treasuries and from his own wealth.
Then David invites the leaders of Israel to give toward the project, and oh do they ever respond! They give gold, silver, bronze, iron and gems. David is overwhelmed with gratitude for all God has done for him and for Israel. So he gives toward the work of honoring God by building the Temple. And David's lavish giving sparks an outpouring of giving from the people.
God has blessed my life abundantly. God has blessed the church I serve abundantly. God has blessed our nation abundantly. God has blessed His people lavishly. God has given grace in the face of sin, healing in the presence of illness, miracles in response to prayers, and more physical abundance than we need or deserve. And what I feel when I consider these great blessings is gratitude.
I believe the best response to this gratitude begins with expressing my thanks to God in worship and praise and holy living. To be ungrateful for such lavish blessings would be an insult to God, who demonstrates His own love toward us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8) And I believe the best response to this gratitude is completed by generous giving of myself and my financial support for that which glorifies the God who is so lavish with grace and provision.
So we give and give and give at our house. We believe it honors God. We have come to see that we cannot out-give Him. The more we give, the more we are blessed. We begin with the minimum called for in Scripture - a tithe, or 10% of our income given directly to our church as our share of all it takes to provide for ministry to take place.
On top of that we give toward our Global Impact Celebration missions so the Gospel can have witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Beyond that we give to things like the Christmas Eve Offering for sponsoring an entire class of students in Guatemala and for putting water wells in villages in Ghana, West Africa. And for chickens for pastors in Zimbabwe through our Fund-a-Flock offering. And for support of teens who step out and participate in mission trips. And for various other ministries as God stirs our hearts.
Here's the joyful part. The more we give the more gratitude we feel. And the more grateful we are, the more we want to express our thanks and continue to give generously. It's both joyful and fulfilling to honor God in these ways.
Back to King David. He offers a prayer of gratitude when he has received the offerings of the people toward the building of the temple. He gives thanks to God. And this is part of what David prays:
"But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand." (1 Chronicles 29:14 NIV)
When I consider how generous the giving is at Dayton UM Church (where I pastor), I am moved to pray what David prayed. God is worthy of my gratitude and my generosity. Who are we that we should have the ability to give so generously? We are people blessed even more generously by Almighty God! Everything we give was first given to us by Him. And so Thanksgiving is filled both with gratitude and generosity. To God be the glory!