Sunday, November 20, 2005

Gratitude -- More Than a Platitude

I spoke in church today. My topic was on gratitude, in preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday. Here are some excerpts from my talk:

This week we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. It is a time for family gatherings and for feasting. Traditionally, a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, filled with the bounty of the harvest has been used as a symbol for our Thanksgiving celebration – symbolic of the many bounteous blessings we have received from our Father in Heaven.

For many, Thanksgiving, our other sacred holidays (Christmas and Easter) has lost its spiritual meaning. Now it is referred to as “Turkey Day”. Football games often receive more devotion than does God. The poor newspaper carrier has to deliver the largest, heaviest newspaper of the year on Thanksgiving day, in order to prepare consumers for the special sales taking place on the following day. Others like Martha of old, are so busy cooking, and making preparations, and getting everything set just so, that they can hardly wait for Thanksgiving to be over with. Lost in the shuffle is the better part of Thanksgiving – remembering our Lord, and the many blessings He has bestowed upon us.

Is there anything wrong with turkey, or football, or shopping malls? No, not by themselves. However, if they distract us from truly taking stock of our blessings, and expressing our gratitude to God, then we lose out on the true purpose and meaning of the holiday. In fact, we miss out on some choice blessings, if we do not have grateful hearts.

Why Are We Commanded to be Grateful?

Why does God want us to be grateful unto him? Does he want our praises and thanks for His benefit – or is there another reason?

Is it because he expects our thanks after all that he’s done for us? After all, we owe him, don’t we? I would suppose that might be part of the reason as well.

Heavenly Father does not just want to hear us say “Thank-You”. In his wisdom, He knows that if we will carry a spirit of gratitude in our hearts, that he can bless us in ways that otherwise would not be available to us.

In order to carry a spirit of gratitude in our hearts, it requires of us to be humble. If we are not humble, we will not acknowledge that the blessings we have been given are from the Lord.

Conversely, ingratitude is a form of Pride and arrogance.

Over time, if we fail to thank the Lord for his blessings, we start to believe that those things which we have are by our own doing alone, rather than having been received through the grace of God.

Keeping Score

A lack of gratitude can lead to a condition I refer to as: “Keeping Score”. This is where we keep track of how good someone else has it, and how lousy things are for us.

Keeping score always has at least two elements:
  • A comparison between us and someone else, and
  • A feeling that we are not being treated fairly.
Think of the workplace. Some tasks are more desirable than others. How many times do we roll our own eyes when asked to do an unpleasant task. How often to we complain, or hear complaints about how so-and-so always gets out of having to do the unpleasant tasks that we seem to always get stuck with. Do we hear or make complaints of how unfairly we are being treated? Are we keeping score?

Each of us would be less prone to keeping score, if we were more humble, and more gracious.

The Savior’s Example

Let’s look to the life of the Savior. Did he keep score? After a long, tiring day, when the little children were brought before him to be blessed, did he tell them go away? No! He invited them to come unto him. He took them on his knee and be blessed them. His disciples had figured that he had already done enough for one day, but the Savior’s response was to turn no one away. (See Mark 10:13-16)

When we call upon the Lord for his blessings, will he turn us away? Will he hang up a “closed” sign and tell us to come back some other time? No! He invites always to come unto him, at any time, and at any place.

When Jesus knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane, and as he Hung on the Cross, was he keeping score? Did he complain about how hard his task was, compared to what was required of the rest of Heavenly Father’s children? No! He bent His will to that of the Father.

Then he took upon himself the sins of the world. Again, was he keeping score? No! For his was an infinite and eternal sacrifice, for which it was impossible to score.

Even though we can’t comprehend what he went through, we know that he did accomplish the work of the Atonement. And we know that he did it for us, because he loved his Father enough to do His Father’s will, and because he loved us enough that he was willing to bear all of our sins and burdens in our behalf.

If He could do all of that for us without complaint, without keeping score, how is it that we have such a hard time loving and serving one another ungrudgingly. When you think of what the Savior has done for us, it makes our whining and complaining and score keeping seem very small, indeed.

Passing Along Our Gifts

Perhaps the best way we can show our gratitude for what the Lord has done for us, is for us, in-turn, to give the heavenly gifts we have received to others.

We can give our children the gift of a good home. We can teach them, by precept, as well as by example the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We can also reach out and share the gifts we have received to those around us who may not as yet received these great gifts.

How pleased and honored our Lord would be if we were to assist Him in His work of bringing souls unto Christ.

As we enter this holiday season, may we do so with grateful hearts, recognizing our dependence upon the Lord for all that we have, all that we are, and all that we ever hope to become.

As the gift-giving season approaches, may we remember that the greatest gift ever given was that of our Father In Heaven sending us his Only Begotten Son to be the Savior of the World. May we also reach out to our families and fellow-man, and give them the gifts of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which will last well beyond Christmas morning, but will last for a lifetime, and endure throughout all eternity.

The full text of this talk can be read here.


SalGal said...

Alhtough it would seem that I have missed the point of your talk by giving my next statement, I have not.

This year, I am thankful for the Utes killing the Cougars (again) so that I can enjoy Cougar Meatloaf with my Thanksgiving dinner.


Kimberly said...

hee hee hee---- I agree salgal. We were so excited when BYU lost!!!!!!!!!!!!

I loved your talk David. I think gratitude is so very important. It is hard to serve and do nice things for people who do not say thank you and yet so often we forget to say thank you to our Heavenly Father who serves and loves us always and gives us everything!