As we come to Thanksgiving this week most of us will be focusing on what we are thankful for. The past week or so I’ve been asking myself some questions related to the emphasis of the holiday.

One of the things I’ve been asking myself is what is the opposite of being thankful? If your first thought is ingratitude, that’s what I thought as well. But now I’m not so sure. Ingratitude is the absence of gratitude, but is it the opposite of gratitude? I’m ready to nominate complaining and/or grumbling as the opposite of being thankful. In I Corinthians 10 the Apostle Paul warns us to not repeat the mistakes of the children of Israel when they left Egypt for the Promised Land. In verse 10 he concludes his list of things to avoid with “do not grumble as some of them did.” Throughout the record of their traveling in both Exodus and Numbers we read about their grumbling and complaining. It’s hard to be thankful when we are grumbling.

Another question I have been asking myself is what gets in the way of our being grateful? I reread the account in Luke 17:11-19 of Jesus healing 10 lepers and wondered  why the one returned to give thanks, but the other nine did not? I cannot speak for the nine, but I think for some of us we are not as grateful as we might be because of a sense of entitlement. For some reason we think we deserve the good things and blessings in our lives. And if we deserve them, we don’t really need to be thankful for them.

I don’t have a Bible verse for it, but a third question I’ve been asking is shouldn’t we not only be thankful to God, but also to the people He has brought into our lives who are blessings to us? My answer is yes, but why aren’t we more grateful to them? I think the answer for many of us is that we take these people for granted. I’m determined to be intentional about not taking them for granted — not just for this week’s holiday, but all the time.

A final question we might ask is are we really thankful if we don’t express our gratitude? We certainly could be, but wouldn’t it be much better if we stated it? After all, the holiday is called Thanksgiving.

Here’s an illustration from a sermon entitled A Thankful Life by Kevin Harney. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

This is a story I have never shared. It’s a story that goes back to my childhood when we would go for Christmas to my grandmother’s house. My grandmother would give us a gift and then we would always get a gift from Aunt Elaine and Uncle Vernon. I’d never met them. They lived in Flint, Michigan, and we were in Orange County. But we would get a little gift and then a check for fifteen dollars. Back then fifteen dollars was like a million dollars. Every year I would get this check and this little gift from Aunt Elaine and Uncle Vernon, and my mom would say this, “You kids should write Aunt Elaine and Uncle Vernon a thank you note.” And every year my sisters Gretchen and Alison wrote a note, and I didn’t write a note. So one year we got to Grandma’s house, she gave us our little gift, we opened it, and she gave gifts to Alison and Gretchen from Aunt Elaine and Uncle Vernon, but there was no gift for little Kevin. And I looked and I said, “Don’t I get a gift?” And my mom said, “Aunt Elaine and Uncle Vernon let us know that you’ve never written them a thank you note, they will not be sending you Christmas gifts anymore.” I’ll never forget that and I thank God for it. I’m really good at writing notes now. And it’s not just so I get another gift. They probably thought, “He just doesn’t appreciate it, he just doesn’t care,” and they stopped giving the gift.

If we do not express our gratitude do you think God or others may think we don’t appreciate or care what they do to enrich our lives?

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Last week I was reminded of both the beauty of gratitude as well as the ugliness of ingratitude.

On Monday a full professor at the university where I am an adjunct happened to learn about something I had done for my students that was over and above what would be expected. And the next day he took the time and made the effort to send me an email thanking me. He certainly did not have to do that, nor did he gain anything by it (except my appreciation for him). But I was honored by his note.

At the end of last week someone for whom I have done a lot turned on me and spoke disrespectfully to me in front of others. In all honesty, all I could think was “has this person forgotten all I have done for him?” While I do not expect to be regularly thanked by this person, my spirit was wounded by his attitude and words.

One of the reasons I think saying thanks is so important is because I have been thanked regularly and often during my years as a pastor and teacher. And I know what it means to me to be on the receiving end of someone’s expression of gratitude. As a matter of fact, during my 44 years of ministry I served four churches: a summer intern youth ministry in Columbus, a five year youth ministry in Cincinnati, a 10 year ministry in the Philadelphia area, and a 30 year ministry in Southern California. I still regularly hear from people in all four of those churches telling me thanks. And during the last few years of my teaching at Hope International University many students have expressed appreciation.

Since saying thank you is so important, why do you suppose so many do not more regularly express gratitude? I know it is the job of our server to wait on us when we eat out, but I’m fairly confident servers are encouraged and appreciate it when we thank them. My sense is that some people don’t say thanks because they are arrogant. They think they deserve what they have been given, or the way they have been treated; they feel they are entitled to it.

It may just be me, but I think ingratitude is a serious sin that shrinks a person’s soul and hardens their heart. In my experience grateful people seem to be positive and happy people. Ungrateful people seem to be negative and discontented. And it’s really about one’s attitude, isn’t it?

Let me make a couple of suggestions.

One is let’s be more intentional and specific about expressing gratitude. First, I think to God; but also to those who are closest to us (especially in our homes and with our close friends) as well as those we come into contact with only casually. Don’t thank people to manipulate them, but take note of what a difference it makes when you say thank you to them.

Finally, learn to be a gracious receiver of the gratitude of others. Work hard not to rebuff someone’s effort to thank you by devaluing what they are thanking you for. Acknowledge their gratitude and tell them you appreciate it.

When it comes to expressing gratitude, what grade would you give yourself? When it comes to receiving gratitude, what grade would you give yourself?

Reply below and share this post on social media if you think others would benefit.

And thanks for reading and considering these thoughts.

photo credit: <a href=”″>I Can BEE Grateful</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;