Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankfulness And Its Opposite: A Deep Sense of Entitlement

One of the great benefits of wandering up and down the East coast as I am now is that I get to hear two of this country's finest evangelical ministers in person, the John Newtons of our time if you will: Lon Solomon of McLean Bible Church in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, and Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. And so it was last weekend, I managed to arrive road weary and hear both men deliver sermons and Biblical truths to live by that I greatly needed to hear.

Shortly before going last Sunday evening to meet my new grandson and see and pray with his tired, proud parents at Beth Israel Hospital in New York, I ducked into a late afternoon service at Hunter College where Tim Keller was scheduled to speak. As I took my seat, an associate pastor was giving an explanation about gratitude and its opposite ingratitude before leading the congregation in a "Prayer of Confession".

Ahead of Thanksgiving, this young pastor talked about the practice of giving personal gratitude to God as well as its opposite, the sin of ingratitude. Rather than referring to its opposite as ingratitude, he called it our deep sense of entitlement. And that's what really got my attention.

Ideally, all people should have a resounding, overwhelming and never ending sense of gratitude for what Christ has done for us personally, and all mankind, on the Cross. His generous offer of forgiveness of our myriad sins and gift of eternal life should leave us breathless with thankfulness and praise no matter what our life's circumstances.

But it doesn't and we don't.

Instead, most of us have the opposite of gratitude: we carry on with a sense of entitlement as to how we think our lives, our close relationships, our work, our resources should be. We think we know what we must have to be grateful and happy. We also think we're owed a comfortable, easy life, especially because we think we're good people. If things don't go the way we think they should, we rebel, give up on God and live lives of depression, addiction, anger and quiet, or not-so-quiet, desperation. One way or another we find a ways to get mad and stay mad. And never let it go of what should have, could have, would have been. Whatever it is. We never really move on.

Our deep sense of entitlement in essence says to God, not Your Way, Father, but my way. I know what's best for me, so You'd better give it to me now, or make it up to me for what happened in the past.....or else. Rarely if ever does it occur to us that what has happened to us is God's way of bringing us in closer relationship to Him.

Our circumstances don't mean of course that we don't try to change them or better ourselves, seek healing for our loved ones and work for social justice. But it does mean when difficult things come down and are accomplished in our lives, we need to look for deeper meanings and come back to gratitude and understanding through a process of maturing, forgiveness and acceptance. Often in time, we find the blessings in disguise for our losses and pain. And our despair turns us back to God and a continuing relationship with Him.

Today, are we living more in a state of true, exciting gratitude, or a sense of ungrateful entitlement? Does our hope and thankfulness involve the circumstances of our present lives, or does it include hope of redemption and eternal life in the next? All great questions to ponder as we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, 2008.

As I ponder these questions, I want to finish with the Prayer of Confession from the program at Redeemer last Sunday:


Prayer of Confession


Almighty God, you are generous in abundance. You have given to us gifts that we do not deserve. You have called us from death to life, granted us forgiveness through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, given us the Holy Spirit, and made us your children.

All the Congregation:

You have provided for us, both spiritually and materially. Yet we have failed to be thankful and to rejoice in your goodness. We have ignored you and neglected to give you the praise that is due your name.

Forgive us for our ingratitude. Give us eyes that see your hand at work in all areas of our life. Enable us to realize that every good thing comes from You. And deepen our gratitude so that we might serve and obey you with undivided and joyful hearts. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen



vanderleun said...

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young.

Webutante said...

Ahhh. Thank you. And remember the kind wishes always come back to you. God bless you, my friend.

Rita Loca said...

Excellent and provoking thoughts.

William said...

"boom chicka-chicka"?

As for praise music, kind of partial to Josquin Desprez.

Webutante said...

Yes, Josquin is in another class altogether. Good point.