Tuesday, November 20, 2012
A meditation on ingratitude
Maybe it’s the “friend” who now ignores you for reasons you can’t fathom. Or the colleague who stabbed you in the back. Or the relative who repaid your kindness with insults.
You’ve done the same or worse; so have I. But let’s not dwell on that. It’s more satisfying to stew about what others have done to us — and how much they’ll regret it one of these days. Not that we would personally seek retribution, mind you, but we wouldn’t protest if the Lord corrected them with a little extra gusto.
Most painful of all is the hurt sometimes inflicted on us by our own children. Shakespeare understood: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!” lamented King Lear after being deceived and humiliated by one of his two no-good daughters. Of course, Lear foolishly rejected his third daughter, who was faithful and true, so ingratitude flows both ways.
A few other quotations on the subject:
* “Do you know what is more hard to bear than the reverses of fortune? It is the baseness, the hideous ingratitude, of man.” — Napoleon Bonaparte
* “Most people return small favors, acknowledge medium ones and repay greater ones with ingratitude.” — Benjamin Franklin
And from the great poet John Milton, a vivid observation that applies to the way many people observe Thanksgiving these days:
* “Swinish gluttony ne’er looks to heaven amid his gorgeous feast, but with besotted, base ingratitude, crams and blasphemes his feeder.”
Ouch. That last one hits close to home. The worst ingratitude is not what we express toward one another, but what we express toward God. Indifference. Greed. Rebellion. Prayerlessness. Bitterness. They all have their roots in ingratitude toward the One who owes us nothing but gives us everything — including Himself.
The familiar story in Luke’s Gospel of Jesus healing the 10 lepers comes to mind:
“While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine — where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well’” (Luke 17:11-19, NASB).
All 10 were healed. Only one turned back to glorify and thank the Lord. You can hear the hurt in the Master’s voice: “But the nine — where are they?”
They were enjoying the blessing, without blessing the One who gave it. Many of today’s fashionable worldviews — whether secularism, atheism or some other -ism — are explicitly based on cutting God out of the picture. Even worse, however, is paying lip service to Him while your heart is ungrateful.
This Thanksgiving, don’t be among the nine. Be the one who turns back to fall at the feet of Christ in gratitude for the ultimate gift: Himself.