If we understand that everything we have is God’s—including the very capacity to work, engage in business, create and produce, sell, and build wealth—we will be grateful to God.
Of course, if we are wealthy and have abundance, it’s easy to convince ourselves that what we have is mainly a result of our own hard work, intelligence and creative genius. The reality is quite the opposite. If we have been born into a loving family, a prosperous country, a good educational system, a stable society with the rule of law, we have the good fortune needed to make it possible for hard work to pay off. This is not to suggest that hard work never contributes to economic success. Clearly, it is often a factor. Yet even intelligence and creative genius needed to make hard work fruitful are gifts from God. The Apostle Paul puts it bluntly when he asks the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Paul’s point is that even the very abilities we have are given to us by God. King David echoes this sentiment when in response to God’s generosity he prays, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” (1 Chronicles 17:16). Biblically, the response to the blessing of provision and abundance is deep gratitude, even if our own work played a major role in generating our wealth.
Yet even among Christians, affluence seems to breed ingratitude and a sense of entitlement—as if we are somehow owed something. This betrays an inflated view of our own importance, and a very limited awareness of gift, grace and good fortune in our lives. Another factor that prevents us from experiencing gratitude is envy. It is easy to begrudge others for what they have, rather than being content and grateful for what we have if we see ourselves primarily as consumers, rather than servants. Western culture feeds this envy. Marketing, advertising, and even entertainment encourage us to make living like the rich our aspiration. In doing so, we crave for what others have—not only their possessions but also their abilities and circumstances. In contrast, the Bible commands us not to covet anything that belongs to our neighbor—whether positions at work, salaries, economic opportunities or bank balances—but to develop a growing gratitude for what we have been given.
How can we become more thankful? By giving thanks. We become more thankful through the simple act of giving thanks every day for whatever we have that we appreciate. Giving thanks actually changes our attitude. If, at the same time, we turn off or tune out the “aspirational” marketing and cultural messages, we can actually become more thankful and joyful in our lives.
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