OF GRACE & GRATITUDE

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”   2 Corinthians 9:15

It’s interesting isn’t it that here in 2 Corinthians Paul, in a talk about tithing, just explodes into grateful praise to God. Here’s a lesson (command even) in Christian generosity and the dominant theme is gratitude. Could that be said of us? When we think about all that God calls us to as his kids in Christ, do we detonate with delight?

“Thanks be to God!” Is a shout of joy stemming from the heart of one having received tremendous joy. In other words, people of grace exude gratitude. This expression of gratefulness to Jesus is the evidence of a heart deeply impacted by the gospel.

Meeting Jesus changes someone. Receiving mercy when we deserved wrath, grace in exchange for judgment and pardon in the place of punishment should leave us stunned. A heart set free from sin sings, and its song is gratitude.

I can almost see Paul jumping up from his desk and dancing around like a little child. In the midst of what we Christians often have the most difficult time talking about – money – Paul finds incredible joy. When he starts thinking about giving away what’s “his” he doesn’t think about what he’s loosing, his mind first turns to all he has been given and the thought of others sharing in God’s grace through his generosity. What an amazing testimony to the Spirits presence in his life. The gospel has given Paul gospel vision. He sees his surroundings and his stuff as sheer grace. Nothing deserved, everything gained and everything to give.

Take a minute and look around you. What do you see? Where did what you have come from? Who does it belong to? What about the people in your life? Are they a blessing or a curse; drudgery or opportunity? If you’re in your home reading this, ponder your possessions. Think about your family and your friends. What comes to mind? If you are at work, what thoughts and emotions do you entertain as you gaze around the room? What song is in your heart when you see the people you work with and for? What about when you encounter customers?

This week most of us will celebrate Thanksgiving. Two questions come to mind. One, what will we be celebrating and two where is our gratitude going? As we scan the room where we feast, what do we see? If you find yourself working long hours serving the world of retail, who do you experience in the faces of those clamoring to consume? As you stand in line and consider all the Christmas décor, does your mind make lists of guilty giving or does your imagination turn toward thoughts of generosity and sacrifice?

An “inexpressible gift.” That’s what this all is. Life, breathe, talents, possessions and relationships; all gifts. “What do we have that we did not receive”, scripture elsewhere asks. And what about the cross? That magnificent, unimaginable and inexpressible gift.  The gift that only God the Father could dream up. The present that only Jesus the Son could provide. The gift so big and so beautiful it takes the Spirit of God to unwrap. In the midst of difficult work does the cross shine through? In feasting and rest is our heart worshipping the giver of all things? As we look into the faces of people around us do we see a chance to give grace? When we think about all we have been given are we pondering how we might develop and live a radically generous lifestyle?

As we enter into this holiday season may I make a challenge to us all? Could we spend a little more time thanking God in our prayers rather than asking for more? Could we take a few moments (or maybe more) in our day to step aside in silence and consider  the Cross of Christ and it’s significance to our lives. And as we encounter people in our path and opportunities in our day might we dance a little more, sing a little louder and give thanks a little more often in light of His “inexpressible gift”.

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