Last week we looked at the creation story and how that can shape us. Now, we begin our reflections on virtue with gratitude, a powerful virtue that shapes our experience of life. 

Reading

1 Thess 5:18     “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”
 

Reflection

The apostle Paul often demonstrates his own gratitude (Phil 1:3-5; 1 Thess 1:2-3) and here in his letter to the Thessalonians instructs Christians that they too should be grateful. It is important to note that Paul says that Christians should be grateful “in” all circumstances, not “for” all circumstances. When everything is going bad and we are experiencing difficulties, we should not be grateful for that, but rather amidst such circumstances, we can still know God’s love and care and be grateful that God never leaves us or forsakes us.
 
You see gratitude is very important when considering how we experience life. If we live with the conviction that God has already provided us with a wonderful Saviour, a place in his family, the privilege of being part of what he is doing in this world, then we approach life and consumption with a different framework. The theologian G. C. Berkouwer says, “Grace is the essence of theology; gratitude is the essence of ethics.” When we realise who God is and what God has done for us and gifted to us, the most appropriate response, in and through our lives, is one of deep and lasting gratitude.
 
Jo-Ann Tsang and her colleagues investigated undergraduate students to measure their levels of materialism, life satisfaction and gratitude. Their results, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences indicated that as materialism increased, feelings of gratitude and life satisfaction decreased. Further analysis revealed that materialists felt less satisfied with their lives mainly because they were experiencing less gratitude. It seems the more we have, the more we can take for granted, and the less grateful we are. The antidote to this is to take note of what we already have, what we can and should be grateful for, and then to practice gratitude to God and to those around us.

By cultivating and practising gratitude, we will actually appreciate what we have and not always need to consume more. We will also become more aware of the good things in our lives, which will give us more reason to give thanks to God. By cultivating gratitude for what we have received we become more conscious consumers not always needing more because of some perceived lack. The trick is to remember the things we wanted, that we have already obtained, and allow that to fuel our gratitude to God and others.
 

Prayer

Gracious God we give thanks to you for every good gift of creation. We are grateful for life, that we have air to breathe and days to enjoy. We are grateful for our various relationships with family and friends. We are grateful for work and support, peace and security. We realise that if you never gave us anything more for the rest of our lives then he has already given us, you would still have given us a reason to be eternally grateful.
 

Questions

What are you grateful for?
How can you communicate your gratitude to God and those around you?
 

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