The attitude of being thankful is one of the foundational feelings we can have for helping us do well financially. When we are thankful for the things we have, we are content and are not in the “I’ll just be happy if I have…” mindset. Contentment and satisfaction are internal feelings; they can’t be obtained from external sources other than God.
When I want something that is beyond my basic needs, I am telling myself that I will be more happy and satisfied when I have obtained it. We all know that after we have purchased something we desperately wanted, in a short while we will want something else again. It seems as if the cycle never ends. Emotions really come into play in this game, much more than logic (except of course when I want new tools 🙂 ). Marketing firms know just how to craft ads to make us feel incomplete, and to suggest filling that gap with their products. We are emotional beings, and our emotions can often fool us.
If I had been a more thankful person, I would have avoided purchasing many things I have over the years, and I would have borrowed a whole lot less money. In the end I would have had more money in savings and investments, and I probably would have given more money away too- bringing more joy to others, to God, and to myself. When I own fewer things, I love having more time on hand, since everything comes with a maintenance schedule. Thanksgiving might be the best American holiday, for it is a great reminder for us to be thankful for all the things we have. Being thankful and content with what we have makes us happier people, something we all want. It is really sad that the day after Thanksgiving is the largest shopping day of the year. In addition, it can be one of the worst times to buy things, since I reported earlier that prices go up on many items during the Holidays.
The most quoted Bible verse of all times is probably the 23rd Psalm, which starts: “The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want” (NKJV) and “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (NIV). Most versions have worded it similarly to these two–either I shouldn’t want beyond my basic needs, or what the Lord provides is totally satisfactory and in him I don’t lack anything I need to feel content. Both ways of looking at it speak volumes to me in the way I need to think about material things and possessions.
My Pastor, Rich Nathan, wrote about Thanksgiving recently in his monthly congregational e-mail:
Like Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, Thanksgiving offers an important rhythm in our year to practice something essential to human happiness – in Thanksgiving’s case, gratitude!
Thanksgiving: Our Response to God’s Extravagant Grace
The author, Os Guinness, quotes a famous artist who said, “The worst moment in the world for an atheist is when she is genuinely thankful, but has nobody to thank.” When your heart bursts with gratitude at the birth of one of your children or grandchildren, or you look at a gorgeous sunset, or you hold your spouse and you are so happy that you cry tears of joy, or you have a prayer miraculously answered – how horrible it would be to be filled with gratitude and have no one to whom to say “thank you.” Christians have someone to say “thank you” to – Jesus Christ.
It is often said that for Christians salvation is all grace and obedience is all gratitude. My love for you, Jesus, is my grateful response to your love for me. I love you, Jesus. You have been so good to me. My tithe is my way for me to say thanks to you. Whenever you write a check and put it in the offering basket, whenever you serve in inconvenience, whenever you make the hard choice of showing kindness to someone who has treated you shabbily, you are saying, “Thank you, Jesus.”
Michelangelo once did a pencil drawing of the Pieta for a friend. With the dead body of Jesus supported by angels at her feet, Mary doesn’t cradle her son as in Michelangelo’s other renderings. In the pencil drawing of the Pieta, Mary raises her hands and her eyes are lifted towards heaven. On the vertical beam of the cross, Michelangelo inscribed a line from Dante’s Paradise, which is the focus of the drawing. The line is this: No one thinks of how much blood it cost.
It is very rare that we kneel with our eyes turned upward to heaven and say:
I haven’t said thank you recently for how much blood it cost for me to know you. I haven’t said thank you recently for how much blood it cost for your church to exist. I haven’t said thank you recently for how much blood it cost to forgive my many sins and to show me grace despite my frequent disobedience.
Gratitude – a recognition that we have nothing that we haven’t received – will keep us as a large church from becoming full of ourselves. It is gratitude that will get our eyes off of our accomplishments and onto Christ’s accomplishments. St. Augustine once said that the Christian life was supposed to be a Hallelujah from head to toe- the praise of God saturating our lives.
Thanksgiving: The Neglected Key to Joy
One of the biggest happiness boosters (this was discovered through a grant from the National Institute of Health) is through practicing gratitude. How do you practice gratitude?
One of the exercises that psychologists gave to people was a gratitude journal; taking time every day to write in a gratitude journal things for which they were thankful. What psychologists found was that if people took time to conscientiously count their blessings every day, life satisfaction markedly increased in just six weeks.
Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology, has tested similar practices at the University of Pennsylvania and in huge experiments that he’s conducted over the Internet. Seligman believes that the single most effective way to turbo-charge our joy is to make what he calls a “gratitude visit.” This means writing out a testimonial thanking a teacher, or a pastor, or a grandparent, or anyone to whom you owe a debt of gratitude. Then visit that person and read your letter of appreciation to him or her. Seligman said that the remarkable thing was that people were measurably happier a month after they paid a gratitude visit to the person to whom a debt of gratitude was owed. Saying thanks produces ongoing joy.
Seligman also recommends what he calls “three blessings,” taking time each day to write down three things that went well that day (in other words, counting your blessings), taking time to journal what’s going well and intentionally savoring good moments by journaling them. Why not consider creating a gratitude journal, paying a gratitude visit, or savoring good things in your life by journaling them?
Thanksgiving: The Need to Practice Becoming a Thankful Person
Thankfulness is something we have to practice. It is like learning how to play the piano. Just as anyone who wishes to play piano well has to practice scales over and over again, thanksgiving must be practiced continually. One thing our family does is to go around the table at Thanksgiving and share at least one thing for which we are grateful. Saying “thank you” does not come naturally to us self-centered people, who believe that all good things are ours by way of entitlement; who are naturally greedy; or who are forgetful. You know you have practiced the scales of thankfulness long enough when you can play the really difficult melody of “thankfulness in all situations” (Philippians 4.11-12). You have become a skilled giver of thanks when, instead of grumbling and complaining, instead of sinking into self-pity and depression, you are able to give thanks in all circumstances!