The Dangers of Ingratitude
In my devotions, I have spent a lot of time in the Psalms recently and I have noticed the frequent focus on praise and thanksgiving. In my life, I have noticed that I do not give thanks to God as often as I should. Since the US holiday of Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, I thought this would be a good time to share the importance of thankfulness and some practical ways of cultivating thanksgiving in your own life.
Ingratitude Is a Sin
Did you know that ingratitude, or a lack of thankfulness is a sin? Scripture instructs the believer to be thankful and to praise the Lord, but it also reveals the consequences of ingratitude as well.
Ingratitude Leads to Other Sins
While the context speaks of an unbeliever, Romans chapter 1 shows a progression of man rejecting God. I think believers, if they are not careful, can go through a similar progression. In these verses God reveals who He is to man through His creation. Man has no excuse for not recognizing Him. In verses 21-22 Paul reveals the thoughts of these people, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21-22, ESV). Though God had revealed Himself, they chose not to glorify Him. They chose not to thank Him for what He had done. They became vain or self-focused in their thoughts. Though they thought they were wise, they were thinking as fools. God allowed them to make these choices and it led in a downward spiral to more and more sin such as idolatry and sexual immorality. Romans 1:29 continues, “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:29-32, ESV). This entire progression began because they failed to recognize who God is and what He had done.
A Dangerous Place to Be
Ingratitude begins in the heart. When one does not acknowledge God as the Giver of all good gifts (James 1:17), this can lead to pride and self-focus. Instead of humbly redirecting the focus back to God, man becomes the focus. When man is the focus, he seeks the fulfillment of his desires which can lead to a downward spiral of sin.
Contentment is not a thing that comes naturally; it is a thing that is learned (Philippians 4:11-12). One must come to the realization that God will supply every need, and in our longings, He will satisfy us with Himself. He can be trusted because He is good. We should thank Him for His many blessings and His character, rather than focusing on what He has not given.
Practical Ways of Cultivating Thankfulness
So how does one learn contentment? Here are ten ways to cultivate gratitude in your life.
1. Resolve to give thanks
“My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!” (Psalm 108:1-2)
In this Psalm, David fixes His heart on praising the Lord. The word translated steadfast literally means “to be firm, or to be erect.” I picture a soldier who has been given the order to guard something, standing straight and tall, resolved to let nothing get by him.
David resolved to praise God with his whole heart. He made a commitment, and he found a way to fulfill it. He awoke early, before the sun was up to start his day with praise.
It is not always easy to give thanks and praise the Lord. Sometimes it takes great resolve to go beyond one’s feelings and make the choice to praise the Lord. Yet, in doing so, the focus shifts from oneself to the Lord. As time goes on, one can develop a heart of gratitude, and see life with a perspective of joy and not discouragement.
2. Immerse Yourself in God’s Word
“Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad. Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually” (Psalm 105:3-4, ESV).
Read about what God had done in His Word, but also learn about His character. Learn to know Him and love Him. Spend time with Him. Seek Him as one who seeks hidden treasure. Yearn for Him as the thirsty one who is lost in the desert yearns for water (Psalm 63:1). The more you understand His character, the easier it is to trust and praise Him.
All of Scripture is filled with information about God’s character and His works, but many of the Psalms display the heart of gratitude in a simple way.
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:1, ESV).
When God’s Word is stored away in your mind, it will be easier to focus on when trials come. Whenever you are tempted to complain, remember verses that speak of who God is and what He has done and choose to give thanks instead.
Meditate on Scripture
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands” (Psalm 143:5).
By meditating, I don’t mean emptying your mind (as many use that word today), but rather filling it with God’s Word. Watch out for sinful thoughts of worry or fear or ingratitude. To replace sinful thoughts, you must learn how to think godly ones. Fill your mind with who God is and what He has done.
3. Remember what He has done
“…Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits” (Psalm 103:1-2 NASB).
Psalm 106 is a song which tells the story of God’s deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt and His leading them to the Promised Land of Canaan. It calls Israel to remember what God did for them and praise Him. However, though God did great works and rescued them, verse 12 says, “…They believed His words; They sang His praise”(Psalm 106:12, NASB). However, they didn’t remember very long. The very next verse says, “They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel” (Psalm 106:13, NASB). Israel forgot the God who had saved them and they broke His commandments; yet God did not forget them. He disciplined them, and He continued to love and rescue them even after they broke His commands again and again.
It is so easy to get caught up in the daily aspects of life that we forget to stop and thank God for His many blessings.
4. Thank and Praise God through Prayer
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, ESV).
Tell God “thank you” for what He has done in your life. Praise Him for His character. Give your worries and fears to Him and trust Him with a heart of thankfulness.
5. Look for the Little Blessings
Every day is another day given by the Lord. We often miss of God’s goodness because we fail to open our eyes and see it. He is the Giver of each breath (Isaiah 42:5). He is the One who paints each sunrise and sunset across the sky (Psalm 65:8). He knows the number of stars and calls them all by name (Psalm 147:4). He also knows every hair on your head (Luke 12:7). His thoughts about you are more than all the grains of sand on the seashore (Psalm 139:17-18). How easy it is to lose the wonder of the God we serve!
6. Thank God Aloud and Praise Him to Others
“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!” (Psalm 105:1-2).
“I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation” (Psalm 40:10).
Many of the Psalms speak of praising God publicly. While it is important for gratitude to begin in the heart, it shouldn’t stay hidden there. It should overflow out of our mouths and all over those around us. God blesses us so we can give Him back the glory and encourage and serve others.
Don’t keep the glory for yourself! The Bible tells the story of what happened when King Herod did just that.
“On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man!’ Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last” (Acts 12:21-23).
God takes His Name and glory seriously. We must acknowledge Him as the Giver of all talents and blessings.
7. Sing and Listen to Music that Inspires Thankfulness
“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30).
Choose songs that point your heart to who God is and what he has done. Avoid the music that makes you think of yourself or all your problems. Don’t just listen to music, sing it! It doesn’t matter if you think you have a good voice or not, what matters is having a heart of praise.
8. Spend Time with Godly Believers.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:15-16, ESV).
Share with other believers what God has taught you. If you are struggling, ask them to pray for you. Ask them to share what God has taught them. Worship God together.
9. Share God’s Blessings with Others
“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12, ESV).
In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul encourages the Corinthian believers as they give to the suffering believers in Jerusalem. He reminds them that God loves a cheerful giver, and God is the One enriching them so they can give to others. By giving, the Corinthian believers demonstrated their thankfulness to God for His gifts, and enabled the Jewish believers to be thankful to God for His provision. After all, God was the greatest Giver through the sending of His Son. “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15, ESV).
10. Make a Monument!
“Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever” (Joshua 4: 4-7, ESV).
God did not want Israel to forget how He brought them out of Egypt. Joshua had the people erect a monument to remind them what the Lord had done. Now, it might not be possible to build stone monuments every time God does something for you, but here are a few ways that you could make your own “monument of remembrance.
In Plain Sight
Write out verses speaking of thankfulness or things you are thankful for. Place them on your mirror or phone background or somewhere you will see them often and thank God for them.
Find some stones large enough to write on. Every day write something you’re thankful for. Place them around the house where you will see them and thank God for His blessings.
Start a Gratitude Journal
Get a notebook or journal and fill it with your prayers of praise and thanksgiving, answered prayers, Scripture verses, lists of what God has done, attributes of God, song lyrics of praise, poems, quotes, etc. I think a bullet journal would work really well for this. Try to write something every day. When you’re discouraged, look back at all God has done and be reminded of who He is.
Make a Thankfulness Jar
Write down things you are thankful for on pieces of paper each day and put them in the jar. Don’t forget to put the date and why you are thankful for what you wrote. At least once a month take them out and look at the ways God has blessed you.
I recently started a thankfulness jar. I have several different colors of paper for different categories of thanksgiving. Currently these are the categories I have.
Purple: People I’m thankful for
Green: Scripture that has challenged me
Orange: Little Blessings
Pink: Because God is… (Attributes of God)
White: Ways I have seen God’s Hand Today…
Yellow: Blessings of Singleness (Or Relationship, Marriage or Family if those apply to you)
Blue: Trials and Challenges I’m facing
Before bed each night, I think back through the day. I try to pick at least one category to write about. On each piece of paper I write a prayer thanking the Lord for that blessing. This focuses my mind on the Lord and His blessing each night before I go to sleep.
How about you?
How do you focus your mind and heart on thanksgiving to God? I would love to hear from you! Feel free to post a comment below.