Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Romans 8:35-39, 1 Peter 4:12-14
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
- G. K. Chesterton
I went to a high school with clean carpets, new lockers, and teachers who cared. Whenever adults mentioned the school and its shiny gymnasium floors, they would say, “We’re so blessed to have this facility.” Our teachers would smile as they paraded us to the library full of new books: “We’re so blessed to have this facility.”
It became a joke, at least between my sister and me, who were still learning the ropes of gratefulness. We’d lounge on the beautifully upholstered purple furniture, looking at original paintings of eagles hung on the walls while chanting to each other in our best Michigan-mom accents, “We’re so blessed to have this facility.”
Somehow, blessedly, we moved from lying around, idly kicking at our backpacks, to being contributing members of that community, and our hearts moved from mockery to genuine thankfulness for the incredible, undeserved blessings in our lives.
If we can consider Chesterton’s words that the highest form of thought is thankfulness, then ungrateful mockery is possibly the lowest form of thought. Paul is setting the example for his beloved Thessalonians by weaving his thankfulness throughout this letter to them. And he doesn’t just thank them for doing a great job; he thanks God for all the saving benefits bestowed on them, and celebrates the evidence of the gospel in their lives (1 Thessalonians 1:2-5). His thanks are, above all, to God.
All good comes from God, so no good can be hoped for by sinners but from God. Paul’s thanks to God are appropriate because God is the author of all that is good—not just all the good that comes to us, but even all the good that is done by us.
I think of myself as a pretty thankful person—maybe you do, too—but I hadn’t thought of it as a duty. Matthew Henry goes so far as to say, “Thanksgiving to God is a great duty, to be performed always or constantly; even when we do not actually give thanks to God by our words, we should have a grateful sense of God’s goodness upon our minds.” We are to set our minds always in the gear of gratefulness.
Do you find yourself in a habit of gratefulness to God, or are you set in mockery? When I consider the percentages of the words that come out of my mouth, I’m definitely teasing or complaining at least as much as I’m blessing and thanking.
If you also find yourself struck by the mockery and ungratefulness that escapes your lips and hangs around your mind, you’re in good company. But don’t just grit your teeth and try harder. Paul immediately points us to the three cardinal graces: faith, hope, and love. And he doesn’t say, “Try harder, y’all! Get you some more faith, hope, and love!” Instead he names the cause of these graces: our Lord Jesus Christ.
All good comes from Him, and any change in our hearts comes from Him. He is the object and also the instigator of our thankfulness. For the gospel also comes to us not only in words, but in power (1 Thessalonians 1:5).