Gratitude May 20, 2013

In our day, just as people find it difficult to say “sorry,” so they find it difficult to say “thank you.” And often, when people do say “thank you,” other people find it difficult to accept. We live in a society where we are all supposed to be self-sufficient, and everything done for others is a kind of a business deal. We have done our best to squeeze out the much richer, gentler, more powerful human interaction where someone acts out of sheer generosity and someone else accepts the action with open gratitude. We find it much easier to think of a network of obligations, rights and rewards then to imagine spontaneous generosity, seeking no recompense, and spontaneous gratitude, implying no inferiority or obligation.

What we have here, though, is the idea of a community where somebody, in this case God, does something out of sheer goodness, simply out of who he is. It is a community where people are so thankful that, without any diminution of who they are, but rather with an enlargement of who they are by their thankfulness, they respond to him in gratitude. This was, of course, a problem in the ancient world as well. So-called “benefactors” give gifts to people specifically in order to get a return, to enhance their social position, to look down their noses at those who benefitted from their generosity.

But when God gives things, and indeed when God gives God’s own self to people, it isn’t like that at all. It is a glad outpouring of who God is, which should never produce guilty indebtedness. God wants us to be grateful, of course, but only because he wants to enjoy the relationship that is thereby created, together with the richer flowering of our genuine humanity.”

NT Wright, Reflecting the Glory, pg 46

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