I have read the first chapter of Romans many times.
While it begins with Paul’s greetings to the Roman Christians and his declaration of power of the gospel of Jesus Christ (verse 16), the overall tone is not a happy one. This chapter speaks to the lostness of mankind and the depths to which our sin carries us.
A short phrase caught my attention in a recent reading. I have cruised through this phrase before, but this time it hit me in the heart.
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Romans 1:21
Right in the middle of that verse are three words – neither were thankful. What is that doing there? That seems pretty mild to be at the beginning of a description of mankind’s degradation.
“Neither were thankful.”
As I thought on that phrase, I realized – being unthankful, a lack of gratitude, speaks to a state of heart.
Unthankful means –
- I feel and act as though I am entitled.
- I am at the center of my universe.
- I am not recognizing my dependence on the mercy of God.
- I see myself as superior to others.
“Unthankful” sets one up for a tremendous fall.
I thought about other verses in scripture where God commands me to be thankful.
Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Psalm 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Psalm 107:1 O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. (These exact words are repeated numerous times in scripture.)
Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
I Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Thankfulness to God is a theme that runs through the Bible, and it is a defining characteristic of the believer. It is God’s will for my life!
Thankfulness means that I see me in the light of Who God is. I recognize my unworthiness and His Sovereignty. A thankful heart is ready to worship, ready to give. Gratitude is the foundation of humility.
When an ‘attitude of gratitude’ rules my heart, it also rules my life.
Jesus modeled gratitude when He gave thanks for the food before feeding the five thousand. He modeled gratitude when He gave thanks for the bread and wine at the last supper. We teach our children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ because we want them to be polite. This is wonderful, but perhaps we should also focus on modeling an ‘attitude of gratitude’ for them in our everyday actions and words.
- Gratitude does not dwell with surliness.
- Gratitude does not dwell with self-centeredness.
- Gratitude does not dwell discontent.
Wow! It is heart-check time. Am I thankful to God for His mercy and grace and faithful provision? Does my life reflect thankfulness in how I react to others? I think I may need God’s help in this area.
Photo – Maine Seashore