Christmas Character Series: Gratefulness

Christmas Character - Gratefulness

Gratefulness is, “making known to God and others in what ways they have benefited my life.”*

The antonym of gratefulness is Unthankfulness.*

With Thanksgiving now behind us, we should not release ourselves from the idea that we can get by without expressing thanks to people for not only the things they give, but for what they represent or do for us.

I am learning more and more that people are more important than things. Things are useful, but they are not eternal. To treat a person as an object, easily pushed aside, or of little value could damage their view of God or douse water on their zeal for the Lord.

What Gratefulness is: Investment

Expressing gratefulness to those that benefit your life is like putting money into a piggy bank. The popular author, John Maxwell, often refers to leaders as having an amount of change that they carry with them. When they mess up then it costs them some of their change. If they continue to have character issues and misuse or mistreat those that they lead then when problems happen they use their change until it is no longer available for use when they need it.

So as our gratitude or lack thereof either puts money into our piggy bank or extracts it. When we make mistakes or wrong choices we pay for them. It costs us something. We need to have invested enough gratefulness to others for how they have helped us in our lives so that when we do mess up, it can easily be forgiven. If we have been continually unthankful, then in time respect is lost and many times the generosity once extended is stopped.

We prevent people from begrudging their resources of time, treasure, and talent by gratefulness.

Practical ways we can demonstrate our gratefulness toward others at Christmas

  1. By giving a host/hostess a gift for having you into their home.
  2. By picking up the plate of the person who made the meal and offering to do the dishes.
  3. Clean up after yourself and show your gratefulness even to your spouse, siblings, or other family members. Show them you are grateful for them by not being sloppy and expecting them to clean up after you.
  4. By writing a note of thanks in a Christmas card. It’s my personal belief that you should write something meaningful in every card you send as a lasting memory to that person, for you never know if it will be your last time to express your love and thanks.
  5. By leaving a good tip for your waiter/waitress, hotel attendant, or hairstylist. Let them know in that moment specifically how that they have made your life better.
  6. Take 10 minutes to talk to a friend or family member and give them a real heart-to-heart expression of their meaning to you.
  7. Kiss your spouse and tell them 3 ways they have brought joy and love to your life.
  8. Give your pastor an expression of your love for his time and effort of preaching God’s Word to you each church service.
  9. Leave a note for your children beside their bed or in a Christmas gift.
  10. By pitching in and doing your part, no matter what it is. Love demonstrated to you should be rewarded by your loyalty and generosity of demonstrating love in return. How many people have taken advantage of their loved ones by being lazy in their relationships and not showing a debt of gratitude.
  11. Show your debt of gratitude toward God by sharing the gospel. Christ paid a debt that we could not pay, we are debtors to each person that does not know Him as their Saviour.
  12. Making cookies for the neighbors that water your lawn when you go on vacation, the babysitter that loves and cares for your children, etc.
  13. Placing your hand on someone’s shoulder and telling them you are thankful for their service… a serviceman, veteran, or volunteer in your church or community.
  14. By taking a picture of a gift given to you or your children of you using the gift and e-mailing it or sending it to them. It shows you truly are grateful for something they gave and how you are using it.
  15. Expressing your gratefulness aloud. Telling others how someone else benefits you spreads love and gratefulness all around, especially within the earshot of the person that you’re bragging on.

What Unthankfulness Does

Unthankfulness does its own series of hurt and damage to the heart of the giver. Unthankfulness is a discouragement. It builds walls between people and hardens hearts.  It is like the 9 healed lepers in the story of Luke 17 that received the benefits of Christ’s healing but never stopped to say thank you. Only one leper had the faith to turn around, thank Christ, and worship at His feet for the gift of healing. Jesus said to him, “…thy faith hath made thee whole.” It seems like gratefulness in this story was correlated to this healed leper’s faith.

I can think of many times when I did not extend gratefulness and how it created a breach in some of the relationships that I had with my family members or acquaintances. There are times when you can alter a relationship forever by not giving a true expression of thanks. Gratefulness needs to be expressed in word, action, or writing. If you are willing to sacrifice your relationships for selfishness, then you will lose and be lonely in the end.

Evaluate

To the Unthankful:

  • Have you used up all your change because you have not invested in gratefulness?
  • Do you have any people in your life that have begun to build a wall up between you because you consistently choose to be unthankful for their gifts and their sacrifices for you?
  • Does laziness show an unthankful heart toward anyone in your life?
  • Does a lack of unthankfulness show your faith is stunted like the 9 unthankful lepers?

To help you demonstrate Gratefulness:

  • Which friend will you call and have a heart-to-heart with?
  • Is there anyone you need to write a thank you note to?
  • Who will you surprise by letting them know specifically how they have benefited you?
  • How will you show your debt of love toward the Saviour for His salvation?

And now for one of my all time favorite quotes about gratitude/gratefulness:

Gratitude is the heart’s memory.

If the heart remembers the good, then it is grateful!

Other articles in this series:

*All of the Character definitions come from the Character Qualities Sheet that can be found on SolveFamilyProblems.org.

Christmas Character Series: Contentment

Christmas Character - Contentment

The idea of Christmas can set some people up for a huge craving for more stuff. We fill our wish lists with tons of items, we hope for the latest and greatest. Receiving can become the object of our desire to fulfill the wants we have. This is called covetousness. The want for more, when God has given us plenty.

Contentment is, “realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness.”*

The opposite of contentment is covetousness.*

What Covetousness Is

We really cannot say that we are content when in our hearts we “want, want, want.” How many of us cry to God for our heart’s desires and they do not come true after praying, so we turn around and try to figure out our own way of obtaining the “prize.” God calls our covetousness lust.

James 4:3 says, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

We assume many times that we have gained God’s favor when we get what we want because Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”

In the Old Testament the children of Israel desired to have meat in the wilderness and cried for it continually until God gave them the desires of their heart… God sent more quail than what they knew to do with. The Bible says that while the flesh was between their teeth He let them have what they wanted. They began to be sick. Their desires backfired.

Numbers 11: 33, 34 And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.  And he called the name of that place Kibroth-hattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.

Also in the Old Testament we can think of Achan, David, Samson, and Amnon. All men with a covetous nature that brought them great heartache and problems in their lives.

The true meaning of Christmas is diluted because of rampant covetousness and forsaken contentment. If we say that God is truly all we need, then why do we flock to the stores, or feel despair when we did not get what we wanted? Does our lack of godliness reveal our discontentment?

What Contentment Is

But godliness with contentment is great gain. I Timothy 6:6

According to this verse godliness with contentment is key. Pursuing godliness should make us happy with what we have, resting in God’s omniscient ability to provide all we need and give us more than we deserve. The benefit of being content while being godly is that you have great gain.

God’s reward system is ironic in a way… The void of covetous discontentment will never be filled. People that seek for  gain in a material or positional sense, are losing now and in eternity. God’s children who with a righteous heart, lose their desire for the worldly, are blessed both physically, spiritually, and mentally for now on earth and in eternity.

Be content with Christ for Christmas! True godliness will exalt Christ during the holidays we celebrate Him: Christmas Day and Resurrection Sunday.

If contentment is realizing God has given me everything I need to be happy, then I must:

  • Pursue godliness. View the tiny baby in the manger scene as who He is today, the Son of God sitting on the right hand of the Father and allow Him to mold you to be like Himself. Make it your personal goal to know Him in a deeper way.
  • Forsake worldly desires for temporary material possessions and quench the lusts within my heart.
  • Give of the blessings I already have. Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; I Timothy 6:17,18
  • Acknowledge to God and others where the blessings in my life have come from. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:7
  • Be grateful for any gifts I receive that are more than food and raiment. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. I Timothy 6:8

Evaluate

For the covetous:

  • Are the desires of your heart pure? or are they for more things?
  • If God were to give you the desire of your heart today, would they backfire like they did for the children of Israel?
  • Are you prepared to face the fact of knowing that your current pursuits may cost you heavenly rewards?
  • Is your covetousness diluting the true meaning of Christmas?

For those that desire to be content:

  • How are you pursuing godliness?
  • Are you truly happy with what God has already provided for you?
  • Would you be willing to give of those things God has provided if He wanted you to?
  • Are you willing to distribute?
  • Are you using scripture to help you quench worldly and lustful desires?
  • When was the last time you acknowledged to God and others about the blessings He has given you?
  • Is your godliness exalting the true meaning of Christmas?

Think about what Luke said when he wrote in Acts, “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

I think within the guidelines of understanding contentment you will see that receiving should not be our object of affection, it should be giving with a heart of generosity. Read here in the Christmas Character Series about Generosity.

**All of the Character definitions come from the Character Qualities Sheet that can be found on SolveFamilyProblems.org.