“A Grateful person is rich in contentment.” -David Bednar
One of my favorite parts in the Bible is where Paul is writing back to one of the churches that he has planted. Apparently they had started to argue and create factions within their church, some of them had started to consider themselves better than others, in fact, when they would all gather for a meal each week, some would go ahead and eat, gorging themselves before the other people (the poorer ones who had to work on Sundays) could get there.
And Paul tells them not to receive the Grace of God in vain.
In other words, Paul says, “Don’t be entitled.”
The Most Dangerous Time of The Year
Sunday at Highland, I mentioned that I think this week is the most spiritually dangerous time of the year.
Because on Thursday we will stop to give thanks for what we have. Then we rush off on Friday, almost breaking the doors down at stores just to get a little more.
There is this time in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus is about half-way to Jerusalem. His journey is interrupted by ten Lepers who stood at a distance, and screamed to this man they had heard so much about, “Have pity on us!”
And Jesus does. He makes the whole, and then tells them to go show themselves to the priest (the expert back then on whether someone had been healed) and they would discover they could re-enter their old lives.
Now you probably already know just how much these men had lost at this point. They had been cut off from their families, their vocations, their home. Everything, and in an instance, Jesus gives it all back. But what happens next is really the point of this story.
Ten men are restored, but only one comes back. He’s not a Jewish leper, he’s a foreigner, and he’s thankful.
But what’s interesting to me is the story that is right before it. It’s some of the most difficult words that Jesus says:
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
Now this almost seems out of character for Jesus. Where is all this love and grace stuff? “We are only unworthy servants? We have only done our duty?”
Bu’t what if Jesus isn’t getting rid of that whole Love and Grace thing with this paragraph? What if this is one of the many loving things he could says. And what if Luke puts these two stories together on purpose?
I am a BUICK, a brought up in church kid. And I”m very thankful for that, but one of the dangers that comes with growing up worshipping the LORD is that it can become old hat. Familiarity can breed indifference, or worse, it can breed entitlement. In the words of Randy Harris, “Many of us were born on third base and think we’ve hit a triple.”
Maybe this is why Jesus says this hard word to us.
Maybe that’s why it’s only the Gentile Leper who comes back to thank Him.
There’s something about familiarity with God that makes us less grateful for His actions in our lives. I think Jesus says this hard word because He knows the toxic kind of life that is void of gratitude. It’s good for us to remember who we are and who God is. We forget that with every rise and falling of our chest we are breathing in oxygen that is a gift. With every sunrise and sunset God gives us another day.
Having Nothing, Yet Having Everything
So back to 2 Corinthians. Paul is frustrated with this church because they had started eating without people. And we can understand their logic can’t we? They probably had brought most of the food, they were wanting to start on time, and if people couldn’t make the party that’s on them.
But Paul knows the toxic nature of this line of thinking and so Paul tells them about his life:
I’ve had glory and dishonor, bad and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
There’s one of the best verses in the Bible. Having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Paul’s answer to entitlement and selfish hoarding is to remember that everything belongs to God, and every meal is a gift.
You know I wonder how often those nine lepers thought about this? I imagine they followed the Jesus news of the day. They heard about him being killed and raising from the dead. They heard about this group of disciples that actually started going around the world doing the very things he was doing, and they had walked away from all of it.
They had been healed but it could have been so much more. They could have taken part in the healing of the world. Starting with themselves. They might have lived a life of radical graditude filled with the joy of knowing how generous God is.
May this be a season for you to step back and appreciate how good God is. May you come to recognize the shoulders you stand on in life. May we fight entitlement with gratitude. Materialism with contentment, and selfishness with generosity.
May we be rich in all the ways that count.