Gratitude is powerful. Saying “thank you” communicates sensitivity, appreciation, and human decency. It’s the one antibiotic that kills the bacteria of selfishness. When we express gratitude, we reveal at least two realizations: the realization that someone did something they probably didn’t have to do, and the realization that you got something you weren’t entitled to. “Wait a minute!” someone in the back row shouts. “When I go to a restaurant and the server brings breadsticks to the table, it’s only because they’re paid for it, and the only reason they’re paid is because I’m going to pay for my meal when I leave the restaurant.” I agree, but I raise questions: why did you say “thanks” when the breadstick basket hit the table? I know you were being polite but perhaps there’s more to consider. For instance: the server took your unique order and brought your own prepared food just as you ordered it (probably). Yes, they’re paid and that’s their job, but they didn’t have to bring you your food. Your server might’ve quit during their shift — maybe because of your table — leaving your prepared food sitting on the heater ledge shelf for hours. Sad and gross, especially as the bruschetta molts and the asparagus ferments. Or, the server may have “accidentally” spilled the pitcher of water all over your lap, or your head. I don’t know about you, but I’m always thankful when that doesn’t happen. Sure, it’s their job, but there all kinds of opportunities the server had to bail on you and/lor ruin dinner and they simply didn’t. That they were pleasant during the whole ordeal only makes one more grateful. It’s a good thing you’re paying them because cooking at home is no easy task, let alone cleaning up afterwards. Speaking of cleanup, the only thing you have to sweep up before you leave is the bill, plus tip. Your total comes to… and you fork it over. Diners Club? MasterCard? Gift Card? Bitcoin? You have bitcoin? I’m so sorry.
Nonetheless you have the kind of resources that let you hit a restaurant. It wasn’t elegant but it was delightful, right? All those dollars went to good use. Those dollars — where did they come from? “Wait a minute!” you shout again, the second time being enough to necessitate our assigning you your own official catchphrase. I can see I offended you a bit with the question about where you got your money, so I hear you when you say “I work hard for my money, so hard for it honey. I work hard for the money, so you’d better treat me right!” Fair enough. You have a job and they pay you — just like the server. What makes you capable of work? Brains? Training? Strength? Where’d you get that? Oh, your parents gave you money? Wow. Where’d they get it? Working and earning money is good. It’s how our society functions (at least for now). The idea that I’m truly self contained implies that I’m self created. But if we’re honest, we have to at least consider that somebody made us able and sustains us to remain capable. Who do we thank for that?
“You’re a pastor. You’re always talking about God. It’s like you wear your religion on your sleeve.”
So it goes. If I may, I’d like to submit that saying “thank you” to a food service provider is a significant act of worshipping God. In that genuine expression of gratitude, we’re pushing out a ripple effect that ultimately centers on Jesus. We’re saying to a fellow human created in God’s image that “you did this for me and I’m grateful that it was you, at your expense, of your energy, and for you to survive. We’re in this together.” And “I recognize that I don’t deserve this kind of experience but by God’s provision and grace I get to be waited on, I get to eat, I get to pay for it without worrying too much about it afterwards.” Life is a miracle. Grace is amazing. Food is a gift. Every day is an opportunity. And here we are, breathing yet bored. Behold! God’s glory is on display all over the place if you’re looking for it. Think about this next time someone brings rolls to your table and asks how you’re doing, even if they don’t seem to really care. Even if they don’t, they’re still human. Plus, you’ve opened the door to ask how their day is going. Ponder and be grateful when you give a tip. Globalize your perspective and consider how rich we are compared to the majority of the world, that we have the luxury of hiring a temporary butler while so many eat rice and beans in their bare feet. Gratitude. It puts us in our place and opens our eyes to God’s beauty in a broken world.
If I can be this thankful for the gift of breadsticks (and I am), imagine how grateful I should be for the sacrifice of Jesus. Consider what He’s done and be grateful! Jesus did something that He didn’t have to do. Paul writes that Jesus “became sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.” It was my sin that needed His perfect sacrifice. And He did that for me. And I didn’t deserve it. I am not entitled to salvation. I cannot pay for the free gift of grace. I have no resources to offer, nothing to bring to the table. Salvation cannot be found anywhere else. It is exclusively in Christ, and He has lavished this gift on me like some kind of quadrillionaire creative genius who loves us too much.
Has anyone ever done something for you that was so generous that it seemed unreasonable? The kind of thing where “thank you” wasn’t enough? When people bring meals to our family, and they bring roast or chicken fingers or chocolate chip cookies or (Help me, Jesus) brownies, I give a hearty “Thank you” and it doesn’t seem like enough. I can’t repay them. I suppose I could return the gesture sometime and Emily and I could bring a meal to their house. While we’re at it, we can return their casserole dishes. Such a simple thing, yet so generous. It’s helpful and humbling when you’ve got a wife who was in the hospital for kidney stones, 3 kids in 3 different schools, and all the other stuff as well when someone shows up with a complete meal, ready to go. “Thank you” isn’t enough.
A few families over the years have helped send our daughter Lexi to a special needs camp — a week at camp costs about $600. We haven’t found that kind of money laying around quite yet. But we have found God’s blessing through His people who give so Lexi can experience something which helps her and helps our family, too. The resources we lack are easy for God to provide, and it makes all the difference for us. “Thank you” isn’t enough.
A few times now we’ve received something as a family from an outside source — sometimes an unknown source — that seemed unreasonably awesome to us. A number of years ago I needed a particular piece of sound equipment to do my job well. It wasn’t in the budget, so I just did the best I could with what I had. Admittedly, I was not grateful but rather frustrated. A few weeks passed after it didn’t make it on the ledger and I opened a card with $1200 cash that said “you need what you need to do your job — be blessed!” from anonymous. It seemed so unreasonably generous! So helpful. So humbling. I wasn’t sure what to do with that thank you, except for saying “Thanks, anonymous” to a bunch of people in hopes it would spread to the right place.
What Jesus has done for us is completely unreasonable. Without Him we’re not just having a bad day. We’re sunk! His gift is so generous, so perfect, so sufficient. We won’t need another Jesus or a second crucifixion or some kind of new atonement in the future. Jesus paid it all. His sacrifice is enough. “Thank you” will never be enough.
Never enough. Can’t repay.
So I give Him my life. What does that look like? Surrender. Submission. Letting Him be God, not me. I call Him “Lord” because He’s in charge of Adam. Doing His will is not always easy, but it always leads to joy. Any time my selfish hackles get up, I try to get thankful. It’s a good habit that saves me from a lot of self pity and self generated sorrow. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is enough. Jesus has given me all I need. How unreasonable. But love — perfect love — is by nature — unreasonable. Jesus isn’t natural with His love. He’s Supernatural. I can’t find that kind of generosity anywhere else. You? Gratitude is powerful. Breadsticks are pretty good, but God is most worthy.
Thank you isn’t enough, but Thank you anyway. A million times Thank you.