Gratitude involves someone showing appreciation or thankfulness for a benefit they have received (or will receive) from someone else.
For example, you are laid up in bed with the flu and you are too sick to cook meals for yourself. Your friend comes to your house and brings with her prepared meals for the next two to three days. You are showing gratitude if you thank her for her kindness. You tell her how much you appreciate what she has done for you whilst you are sick.
You are grateful if you are helped when sick – but what about if someone saved your life. How grateful would you be? I think most of us would feel a debt of gratitude to the person who saved us, for the rest of our lives. We would wonder what can we give them or do for them to show our enormous appreciation.
True Christians are motivated by this feeling of gratitude. They always have this thankfulness and gratefulness in their daily lives. Why are they grateful? They know that their leader, the Lord Jesus Christ, saved them from death. Christians realise they will all eventually die of old age but they have a strong hope of life after that death. They believe that they will be resurrected and (subject to Jesus final approval) be given eternal life.
Gratitude comes over time
Christians don’t just inherit this deep thankfulness, in other words, they are not just given it. This thankfulness in Christians develops over time.
Christians come from many different backgrounds. Some began their lives with a strong desire for money. Others sought power or praise. Others were enemies of Jesus and the cause he stood for. But at some point in their lives they came to the realisation of what had truly been done for them. The lives were completely changed as gratitude welled up inside of them.
The example of Paul’s gratitude
An example of this is the Apostle Paul. In his early life, he had been violently opposed to Jesus. Yet over time he developed a new and living belief and faith in Jesus Christ. Paul no longer lived for himself, but gave his all to his master, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life, I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 ESV
Paul believed that Jesus had given his life for Paul personally and this changed his whole way of thinking. He realised that Jesus died for not just the disobedience of humanity, but for his own wicked life in the past. This knowledge that Paul grasped, drove his energy and determination as a apostle.
Paul was a vigorous preacher and a man who went through many adverse experiences such as imprisonment, beatings and shipwreck (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). He faced many discomforts such as tiredness, hunger and cold. Why did he go through all of these negative things? Because he was filled with love and gratitude, which came as a result of the things that had been done for him.
The life the Christian lives should be motivated in the same way as Paul. Their daily lives need to be motivated by the same sense of gratitude.
Gratitude in action – ten men with leprosy
Luke tells of the time Jesus was passing by the border of Samaria and Galilee (chapter 17:11-19). As he entered a town he was approached by ten men with leprosy. They knew who he was but did not come to close to him. This was because they were lepers and they knew their disease was contagious. From a distance they cried out to him, asking for mercy. Jesus knew that these men, in their hearts, wanted him to heal them of this terrible disease. They obviously had great faith to come and ask him to heal them – they had the confidence that this would happen.
Jesus told the ten men to go to the priest and as they went there they were healed of their illness. The ten men were cleansed, but only one, a Samaritan, came back and in a dramatic gesture of thankfulness “fell down on his face” at Jesus feet. He alone of the ten men was “made well” (or “made whole”). Jesus said about the other nine:
“Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:17-19
This man, a foreigner (or stranger), was the only one to return and give praise to God. He put his gratitude into active expression. This is what gratitude in action means.
Gratitude in action – the woman in Simon’s house
Luke also tells of the woman who entered Simon’s house (chapter 7:36-50). Simon was a Pharisee and he invited Jesus to come and eat with him. A woman of the city, who we are told is a sinner, came to the house and wept before Jesus. While she wept, her tears wet his feet. As a result, she wiped them her hair and kissed his feet and anointed them with alabaster ointment which she had brought with her.
Seeing this, Simon said to himself:
“If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” Luke 7:39
Jesus responded with these words:
“Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:44-47
This woman had poured out her gratitude upon the Lord, who had turned her away from a path of destruction. On the other hand, Simon felt he owed no debt to Jesus and considered that he was doing Jesus a favour by inviting him to his home. He didn’t think it necessary to concern himself in showing Jesus those courtesies he would normally give to a visitor of his own level. However, the woman had not stopped kissing Jesus feet.
Most believers would argue that they are not like Simon. They do appreciate that the Lord has favoured them greatly by leading them along the paths of a life dedicated to God. If Jesus came to their house they would turn off the television/radio/computer and place Jesus at a honoured place at the dinner table. But are we sure that we would be like the woman, and wash his feet with tears? This is where the problem is for each one us – it is so much easier for us to be not like Simon, than to be like the woman.
The woman had overwhelming gratitude towards Jesus. She was very much aware of how much she had been forgiven for her many past sins. She appreciated this fact with every fibre of her body. She knew that she didn’t deserve forgiveness, but she also knew that Jesus through his compassion and love towards her still forgave her.
All of us sin and have broken God’s laws. Because of this, none of us deserve forgiveness. But through the compassion and love of God and his son Jesus, they have chosen to forgive us and wipe away those past sins (if we should ask). Surely we should all be crying tears of gratitude for what has been done for us through love.
Gratitude and sacrifice
If we truly feel gratitude then there must be some sacrifice involved. Imagine for a moment if our only child slipped and fell into the river. Someone jumps into the river and saves the child’s life. I think most of us would want to thank them in some way beyond a few nice words. Would we go to a garbage bin and dig out some old thrown-out clothes and then give these to them as a "thank you" gift? Or would we, perhaps, spend a fair portion of our pay packet to take them to a nice restaurant as a way of thanking them. The greater our gratitude, the greater the sacrifice from us.
How do we thank Jesus and show gratitude for his endurance on the cross – the nails through his hands, the crown of thorns on his head, the scourging, the thirst, the last breath before death. We show our gratitude through the daily sacrifice of our time and effort. We show it through not giving in to those temptations that we face on a daily basis. We show it through helping those in need – the aged and infirm. We show it through teaching others about God and his son Jesus. We show it through loving our neighbour. This is the sacrifice involved in showing our gratitude. Jesus knew this when he said:
‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers [and sisters], you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40
God does not demand that we express our gratitude in sacrifice. He will not force us to give gifts:
And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, offer it of your own free will. Leviticus 22:29 NKJV
However, God considers ingratitude to be inexcusable as a response to His goodness.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 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 1:20-21
Gratitude and prayer
There are many ways that we can thank God and therefore show our gratitude. A well-known one is the giving of thanks for daily food. Thank Him for the food which is before us. But there are many other things we can show gratitude for:
And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. Acts 28:15
When we meet our hosts after a long journey, do we express thanks to God? Or do merely just get straight into conversation with them about trivialities? Giving thanks and showing gratitude is a thing which pleases our Heavenly Father and also will make us feel better in our heart.
“Gratitude” to be avoided
We should always be aware that one form of thankfulness is not gratitude.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. Luke 18:11
This man was telling himself how clever he was and was therefore not thanking God at all. This type of thankfulness we need to avoid!
A person in this world we live in, may be rescued from death by someone who happens to be walking by. The saved person can see their rescuer and be eternally grateful to them. Christians cannot physically see the man who has saved them but they know they have been rescued. As a result, they are eternally grateful to him for what he did on their behalf.
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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 April 2015