The daily blessing of gratitude
Faith & Inspiration
by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Thursday, November 26, 2015, at 8:48 am
Social scientists have spent millions of dollars researching something that the Judeo-Christian tradition has taught for thousands of years, namely that gratitude is one of the keys to the good life. According to recent research, we can now prove that a life characterized by gratitude opens the door to more relationships, improves physical health (including heart health), fights off anxiety and depression, enhances empathy and reduces aggression, improves sleep, improves our self-perception, and gives us the ability to persevere during difficult circumstances. Should it be a surprise, then, that gratitude is a central theme of the Bible and that grace is the central framework for the Christian gospel?
The benefits of gratitude abound. Gratitude is the birthplace of practicing contentment about our current circumstances and properly orients us to have the proper perspective about our lives (1 Timothy 6:6-11). Grateful people are protected from envy and jealousy. The same God who is sufficiently providing good things for His people will continue to do so in the future. God is faithful to His promises.
The Christian Scriptures are saturated with orienting God’s people toward gratitude. God’s people are encouraged to “give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34). David says that he will give thanks to the Lord, with all his heart and tell of all His “wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1). When God’s people gather together they are encouraged to “enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4). In fact, one of the signs of unbelief is the absence of thankfulness toward God (Romans 1:21).
Christians are to be thankful to God because of the victory they have over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:57). It is from a place of thanksgiving that God’s people are encouraged to put to death worry and anxiety (Philippians 4:6). God’s people are to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It is with gratitude and thankfulness that we are to enjoy all of the good things God gives to us (1 Timothy 4:4). The eternal destiny of God’s people will be characterized by gratitude and thankfulness (Revelation 7:12). It is with gratitude in the hearts of God’s people that they are to experience and practice the sanctifying beauty of the Church (Colossians 3:16). In the end, whatever God’s people do they are to give thanks to Him (Colossians 3:17).
Practicing gratitude is not simply a way of being polite. Gratitude is not given to God’s people as a random virtue to practice. With the help of the social sciences, we can now see that gratitude is given to us because it simultaneously brings glory to God and is good for us, just like everything else the Bible encourages us to be and to do. God knows exactly what we need (Luke 12:22-31). For Christians, then, every day should be a day of thanksgiving.
Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.