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Cultivating Gratitude and Generosity

I was standing in line at Safeway. This particular Safeway usually only has one or two lanes open at a time. I was on a time crunch and a little stressed about whether or not I’d make my promised time of arrival. The person in front looked at me, saw that I had four items, and looked at her stack. She then said, “Is that all you have?” I said, “Yes, ma’am.” She then told me to get in front of her. She said it with a commanding tone, so I quickly obeyed. My impulse was to pay for her groceries. I wish I could tell you that I did. However, we have a family budget and have predetermined where our gifts and offerings go, so I was unable to move on the impulse. Instead, I thanked her for her act of kindness and affirmed her as best I could. She reminded me of my grandmother and I was reminded of a spiritual principle.

Gratitude in the heart leads to generosity toward others.

As we enter the month of November and move towards Thanksgiving, I’d like us to spend a little bit of time reflecting on how we can cultivate a heart of gratitude and generosity.

For example, every Monday, our staff gathers on the third floor for 30 minutes before we begin our workday to sing worship songs and pray for our city. This week, one of the songs, Anthem by Phil Wickham, had some beautiful lyrics that have stuck with me:

So many reasons,
too many to count,
to say that I love You,
to worship You now.

It got me thinking of the many reasons I have to be grateful to the Lord, one of which is our daughter Adeline, who recently turned two. She has special needs so her developmental milestones are delayed. It means we spend extra energy on movements and exercises that create small, incremental progress. In the day-to-day, it feels like all work and very little gain. But as I reflect on the past two years, I can see that Adeline has taken some great steps forward developmentally. We celebrate the smallest of noticeable changes. We take great joy when she demonstrates that she’s learned something new. We cling to the smallest of examples as evidence that she is more than capable–even if it requires more effort. All of the energy invested and all of the time spent has only increased our love for her. This reminded me of another principle.

Sacrifice is the greatest expression of love.

Perhaps this is why Jesus graciously looked upon the immoral woman who poured out her expensive perfume on his feet and wept as she knelt before Him. She personified the combination of gratitude and love. Her extravagant act of love was fueled by the depth of gratitude for what God had done in her life. Jesus said, “I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love.” (Luke 7:47)

Her moral bank account was deeply in debt, but Jesus came and forgave her of all she owed. That forgiveness created so much gratitude that she sacrificed her most valuable possession as an act of love.

This is how I see it unfolding: grace received leads to an internal sense of gratitude which manifests in an external act of love called generosity.

How are we doing in our expressions of generosity toward others? It certainly does not need to be monetary. A warm smile, a polite thank you, a gesture of kindness can impact someone far more than a dollar given.

If we are struggling in this, perhaps we could take a step back and rehearse the reasons we have to be grateful.

If we are struggling to come up with some, perhaps we could turn to the Lord and ask Him to pour out His grace in a certain area of our life. As we do, God will meet us along the way.

My hope and prayer is that as we cultivate a heart of gratitude and generosity, we will find ourselves sincerely able to sing:

So many reasons,
too many to count,
to say that I love You,
to worship You now.