Cultivate the Spirit of Gratitude
A PHYSICIAN in New York State saves Marie’s life in an emergency situation. But 50-year-old Marie neither thanks the doctor nor pays her bill. How typical of ingratitude!
The Bible relates that once, upon entering a village, Jesus encountered ten men who had the terrible disease leprosy. They cried out to him with loud voices: “Jesus, Instructor, have mercy on us!” Jesus commanded: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” The lepers accepted his direction, and while on the way, they began to see and feel their restored health.
Nine of the cured lepers continued on their way. But the other leper, a Samaritan, returned to look for Jesus. This former leper praised God, and upon finding Jesus, he fell at his feet, thanking him. In reply Jesus said: “The ten were cleansed, were they not? Where, then, are the other nine? Were none found that turned back to give glory to God but this man of another nation?”—Luke 17:11-19.
An important lesson is implied by the question: “Where, then, are the other nine?” Like Marie, the nine lepers had a serious shortcoming—they did not show gratitude. Such ingratitude is very prevalent today. What is the reason for this?
Basic Cause of Ingratitude
Ingratitude stems basically from selfishness. Consider our first human parents, Adam and Eve. Jehovah created them with divine attributes and provided everything for their happiness, including a beautiful garden home, perfect surroundings, and meaningful and satisfying work. (Genesis 1:26-29; 2:16, 17) Yet, under the pressure of Satan’s appeal to their self-interest, as a couple they gave way to disobedience and responded with contempt to Jehovah’s beneficence.—Genesis 3:1-5; Revelation 12:9.
Consider also the people of ancient Israel, whom God had chosen to be his special property. How grateful all Israelite parents must have been on the night of Nisan 14, 1513 B.C.E.! On that momentous night, the angel of God brought death to “every firstborn in the land of Egypt” but passed over the properly marked Israelite houses. (Exodus 12:12, 21-24, 30) And upon being delivered from Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea, with hearts full of gratitude, ‘Moses and the sons of Israel proceeded to sing to Jehovah.’—Exodus 14:19-28; 15:1-21.
Nevertheless, just weeks after leaving Egypt, “the entire assembly of the sons of Israel began to murmur.” How quickly they fell victim to ingratitude! They missed “sitting by the pots of meat . . . , eating bread to satisfaction,” which they had enjoyed in Egypt, the land of their servitude. (Exodus 16:1-3) Clearly, selfishness works against cultivating and manifesting gratitude.
Being descendants of sinful Adam, all humans are born with a selfish streak and a tendency toward ingratitude. (Romans 5:12) Unthankfulness is also a part of the selfish spirit that dominates the people of this world. Like the air we breathe, that spirit is everywhere, and it affects us. (Ephesians 2:1, 2) We, then, need to cultivate a grateful disposition. How may we do so?
Meditation a Must!
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines gratitude as “the state of being grateful: warm and friendly feeling toward a benefactor prompting one to repay a favor.” A feeling cannot be turned on and off mechanically; it must spring unprompted from within a person. Gratitude is more than a mere display of good manners or a form of etiquette; it stems from the heart.
How can we learn to feel grateful at heart? The Bible attributes much of what we feel to our choice of thoughts. (Ephesians 4:22-24) Learning to feel grateful starts with meditating appreciatively on the kindnesses we receive. In line with this, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, who works in the mental-health field, says: “You cannot have a feeling (emotion) without first having experienced a thought.”
Take, for example, the matter of thankfulness for the creation around us. When you look at a star-packed sky on a cloudless night, how do you feel about what you are experiencing? King David expressed the awe he felt: “When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have prepared, what is mortal man that you keep him in mind, and the son of earthling man that you take care of him?” And in the silence of the night, the stars spoke out to David, prompting him to write: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; and of the work of his hands the expanse is telling.” Why did starry heavens touch David so deeply? He himself answers: “I have meditated on all your activity; I willingly kept myself concerned with the work of your own hands.”—Psalm 8:3, 4; 19:1; 143:5.
David’s son Solomon also appreciated the value of thinking about the wonders of creation. For instance, concerning the part that rain clouds play in refreshing our earth, he wrote: “All the winter torrents are going forth to the sea, yet the sea itself is not full. To the place where the winter torrents are going forth, there they are returning so as to go forth.” (Ecclesiastes 1:7) So it is that after the rains and the rivers have refreshed the earth, their waters are recycled from the oceans back into the clouds. What would this earth be like without this purifying and recycling of water? How grateful Solomon must have felt when dwelling upon these thoughts!
A grateful person also values his relationships with family members, friends, and acquaintances. Their acts of kindness capture his attention. As he appreciatively considers their favors, he feels thankful at heart.
What a simple word “thanks” is! It is so easy to utter such an expression. And opportunities to do so abound. How refreshing is a warm and sincere Thank You to someone who holds a door open for us or picks up something we have dropped! Hearing that expression can make the job of a store clerk or a waitress at a restaurant or the mailman lighter and more rewarding.
Sending thank-you cards is a convenient way to express gratitude for acts of kindness. Many of the cards available in stores express the sentiments beautifully. But would it not be a loving personal touch to add words of appreciation in your own handwriting? Some even prefer to omit a printed card, sending instead a personal note.—Compare Proverbs 25:11.
Likely, those most deserving of our gratitude are the ones closest to us at home. The Bible says of a capable wife: “Her owner rises up, and he praises her.” (Proverbs 31:28) Are not a husband’s heartfelt expressions of thanks to his wife conducive to a home environment of peace and contentment? And is not the husband also glad to come home to a warm and appreciative greeting from his wife? These days, the pressures on marriage are many, and when pressures mount, tempers flare easily. The one of grateful disposition is ready to make allowances and is quick to overlook and forgive.
Youths too need to be conscious to offer their parents heartfelt expressions of appreciation. Of course, parents are not perfect, but that is no reason to be ungrateful for what they have done for you. The love and attention that they have given since your birth cannot be purchased. If they have taught you the knowledge of God, you have an added reason to be grateful.
“Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah,” declares Psalm 127:3. So parents should look for opportunities to commend their children rather than resort to nagging them about trivialities. (Ephesians 6:4) And what a privilege they have to help young ones under their care to cultivate the spirit of gratitude!—Compare Proverbs 29:21.
Thankful to God
Jehovah God is the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect present.” (James 1:17) Especially important is the gift of life, for everything we have or might plan will become valueless if we lose life. The Scriptures urge us to remember that “with [Jehovah God] is the source of life.” (Psalm 36:5, 7, 9; Acts 17:28) To cultivate a grateful heart toward God, we need to meditate on his generous provisions that sustain our physical and spiritual lives. (Psalm 1:1-3; 77:11, 12) Such a heart will prompt us to show appreciation in words and actions.
Prayer is one obvious way to express our gratitude to God. The psalmist David declared: “Many things you yourself have done, O Jehovah my God, even your wonderful works and your thoughts toward us; there is none to be compared to you. Were I inclined to tell and speak of them, they have become more numerous than I can recount.” (Psalm 40:5) May we be moved similarly.
David was also determined to show God his appreciation by the words he spoke to others. He said: “I will laud you, O Jehovah, with all my heart; I will declare all your wonderful works.” (Psalm 9:1) Speaking to others about God, expressing ourselves by sharing with them the truth from his Word, is probably the finest way to show him our gratitude. And this will help us to be more grateful in other aspects of life.
“The one offering thanksgiving as his sacrifice is the one that glorifies me; and as for the one keeping a set way, I will cause him to see salvation,” says Jehovah. May you experience the joy that comes from showing your heartfelt gratitude to him.—Psalm 50:23; 100:2.
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Life is a gift from God. Be sure to add a personal touch