by: Mark Lenentine
When you think of horrible sins what do you think of? We might respond with murder, homosexuality, robbery or other things that WE would never do, but what if the misconduct that God severely frowned upon was not on our “bad list?” The more I read the Bible, the more surprised I am at the things that displease God. Some are very obvious, but you might find that some of the worst are the sins we try to avoid focusing on. Why would we not focus on things? It is simple and natural to remember how much God hates the sins of others, but often the wrong that can seriously derail YOUR future hits a lot closer to home than you might think. The sin I want to briefly talk about is the sin of being unthankful.
In Romans 1, God addresses the vile wickedness and downward spiral of the unsaved. The list gets progressively worse and worse, and frankly quite disgusting. Then God throws something completely unexpected into this list. Verse 21 says, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
As Americans, we become very self-centered. To compound this, the younger you are the more likely you are to have been directly or indirectly trained to focus too much on self. I see and talk to young people all the time who think that everyone somehow owes them something. All these people have some carefully concocted reason as to why this is justified. But with so many people so dissatisfied with their life, especially young people, we have to question the root cause. So, I simply want to ask the question: Are we somehow underprivileged or just incredibly unthankful?
This has been on my mind a lot recently. You see, God, very obviously, orchestrated some divine appointments over the past few weeks where my life crossed the path of someone else who lives a very difficult life. God knew I needed these reminders to help me become more focused on others and to be much more thankful for what He has given me.
Recently, we had a Vacation Bible School at our church. It is a wonderful outreach opportunity because for 5 straight nights you get very close to a group of young people – closer to their personal life, family and home than you might ever be at any other time.
I think of a couple of children, no older than 8, who were riding home from a night of VBS in the backseat of my car. I sat in solemn silence as one of them tried to relay to the other her home situation. She tried to explain how she lived with her mom, but dad lived down the street. She said that her dad had remarried, so she also had a step mom. As for her mom, she said she was living with her boyfriend, so she explained her mom’s boyfriend was not yet her step dad. Maybe the saddest thing was that she explained all of this like it was completely normal.
I also think of a junior high boy who is brand new in our youth group. This week I got to meet his mother and little brother. He even showed me around their tiny two bedroom apartment. When I asked him where his room was, he replied that he didn’t have a bedroom. He slept on the couch because mom and brother slept in one bedroom and his mom had to rent out the other bedroom to a stranger. He explained that his single mom didn’t make enough money at her job at a local fast-food restaurant and that she was trying to make ends meet.
Now, I know that your life isn’t perfect either. Everyone has their struggles, but the funny thing about problems is that can get you focused a whole lot on YOU. Without thankfulness, we can forget about ALL THE MANY blessings that God for some reason showers on us daily and focus on the one or two areas or situations where we wish were different. By doing this, we destroy our faith by continuously painting our loving God in a negative light. God doesn’t just do good, GOD DEFINES GOOD. A daily reminder of this ought to be how good God is to you. I have read a very thought-provoking statement several times: “What if God only gave to you tomorrow the things you thank Him for today?” This is convicting!
Let me give you a few thoughts about thankfulness:
1. Thankfulness has nothing to do with what you have.
2. Being unthankful is an admittance of self-centeredness.
3. Being unthankful stems from a misunderstanding of who God is and who He made me to be.
The list from Romans 1, cites the dangerous and even disgusting life of those who do not acknowledge God. Notice the context, “…neither were thankful…” It then goes on to mention that:
- They become vain – they only thought of themselves v.21
- Their heart was foolish and became darkened v.21
- Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools v.22
- They changed the true God into an image v.23
- God gave them to uncleanness v.24
- They began to dishonor their bodies v.24
As the progression continues, we see that these same people would even goes so far as to engage in immorality, lewdness and even homosexuality. The revealing truth in this passage is that one of the driving forces behind wickedness of this magnitude is a lack of thankfulness. This is not a stretch at all from the passage. The Bible is very clear that a lack of thankfulness for who God is and who God made me to be destroys the very boundaries of what is right and proper. There are many things you could say about the sad condition of society today, but amidst it all, let’s not be guilty of this simple, yet incredibly powerful truth about thankfulness.
I challenge you – take a few minutes and thank God for what He has given you. Then, go further and thank God for what He has done. Don’t stop there though. Thank God for who He made you to be. Last, go even further and thank God, not just for what He has done, but thank Him for who He is. This simple exercise of thankfulness will do more than you could ever imagine to keep your heart right and focused on the goodness of God and the righteousness in which we are to walk.
How’s your thankfulness?
Gospel Light Baptist Church
Rio Rancho, NM