Friday, November 28, 2008


Being grounded in gratitude is far more than just saying the words, “Thank You”! As we saw last Sunday in Philippians 2:12-13, an attitude of gratitude involves remembering our purpose which is to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. But along with remembering our purpose we must also refuse to complain (2:14-16). How difficult is that? We are a complaining culture! The American liberty bringing us freedom of speech has been misinterpreted as freedom to have a critical spirit. And in most cases, a critical spirit is seen in very cruel ways. And this mindset has steered right into the church. The American motto of “the customer is always right” is how many church goers perceive their church life as well. I could fill a book with the weekly e-mails, letters and cards I receive and you would be amazed at how harsh and cruel they are in tone (by the way, the cards in the Sunday bulletin are CONNECTION cards not COMPLAINT cards).

According to Philippians 2:14 we are to do ALL things without grumbling or disputing. ALL…did you catch that? What does ALL means? Just ask our Worship Arts Director, Matt McElravy. He loves it when I use this definition! ALL means ALL and that’s ALL that ALL means. ALL is ALL encompassing. But what exactly are we to avoid? First, we are to do ALL things without grumbling. Grumbling is something we do when we are alone. The word means to mutter; to speak in a low tone; or to complain under one’s breath. It is an expression of secret discontent which had severe consequences in the Old Testament (check out 1 Corinthians 10:10; Numbers 16:41-50). Along with grumbling we are also to do ALL things without disputing. Disputing is something we do with others. It is the term from which we get our English word “dialogue”. It is the idea of an argument. This is the external questioning of submission. An attitude of gratitude is more than just saying “thank you”. It is also refusing to complain.

But along with remembering our purpose and refusing to complain, in order to be grounded in gratitude we must also resolve to rejoice. In verse 17, as Paul writes he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul is stating that his current imprisonment could result in his death seen in his describing himself as being poured out as a drink offering. This was a picture of the pagan practice of pouring out a chalice of wine before or after their meals in honor of the gods they worshipped. It was called a libation and was poured out either to gain favor or soften the anger of the gods. Paul is saying that even if this were to be his fate, he was choosing to rejoice and he exhorted his readers to rejoice with him. Now if Paul can chose to rejoice even in the face of his possible martyrdom, can’t we choose to rejoice even in the things we don’t like?

Thanksgiving has come and gone. The holiday is over. But our need to be grounded in gratitude continues. In Jonathan Swift’s book, Gulliver’s Travels, we are introduced to the tiny people called Lilliputians. These little people had a very big view of gratitude. In fact, they saw ingratitude as cause for capitol punishment. If only we as followers of Jesus would take the need for gratitude half as seriously by remembering our purpose; refusing to complain; and resolving to rejoice, even in the things that don’t exactly “float our boat”!

No comments: