Ungratefulness is indigenous to the human race, although some of us seem to have a larger dose of it. We deserve higher wages, better jobs, nicer homes, and more clothes. Wait, when did deserve enter the equation? This mindset spawns more complaints than a ten-hour traffic jam on a ninety degree day. It is impossible for us to be thankful if we think we are entitled to more possessions and advantages. We don't deserve more, we deserve less; in fact, we don't deserve anything at all. We must first comprehend our unworthiness before we can truly exhibit a thankful attitude.
"As it is written, 'There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.' " (Romans 3:10-18)
We are not "good people." The blessings we receive are not rewards for upright conduct, but gifts bestowed upon helpless sinners. We follow in the footsteps of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-24) and deserve only to feed our stomachs on the pods of the swine. Were the gifts he received due him as a loyal son? Were they presents of love for his likable personality? No, they were unmerited, gracious gifts the son could never claim to have earned.
"Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins?" (Lamentations 3:39)
Sometimes our sins aren't always outwardly manifest, so we insist that we are nice creatures. "I've never killed anyone, and I don't lie, steal, or cheat," is usually our defense when confronted with sin. Maybe we've never committed murder, but we've hated and that is the stepping stone to murder (Matthew 5:22). Our internal thoughts breed the outward actions the worst criminals commit.
We may not seem that sinful when we compare ourselves with our fellow man. For example, an ugly person would probably not be aware of their physical unattractiveness if they only interacted with other ugly people. But the second they encountered a beautiful person, they would instantly realize how gnarled their complexion was. Sin is hardly visible amongst ourselves. However, next to the holiness of Jesus Christ, our hearts are blacker than soot. Nevertheless, God mercifully provides us with abundant blessings even though He sees our filthiness clearer than anyone else. What a reason to rejoice!
Furthermore, Scripture commends and commands thankfulness. John instructed some soldiers, "be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14). God's Word is replete with verses on the subjects of contentment and gratitude (Psalms 18:49, 105:1, 111:1, 138:1-2, 139:14, 2 Corinthians 9:12, Ephesians 5:20, Colossians 3:15-17, 4:2, Hebrews 13:5, 15). Scripture also condemns every form of complaining (Philippians 2:14). Grumbling is often an overlooked sin, considered minor and inconsequential. What is God's response? I don't think you want to know:
"Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp." (Numbers 11:1)
"While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very severe plague." (v. 33)
Years later in reply to their grumbling:
"The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died." (21:6)
I doubt God will incinerate us today, nevertheless, the above passages illustrate His indignation at ungratefulness. It doesn't matter what your complaints are about or whether they're aimed at your parent, sibling, spouse, friend, or coworker. Because, ultimately, you are nitpicking God, who gave you what you have and placed you where you are. In the words of Moses, "The Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord" (Exodus 16:8).
Complaining is never lonely, for many sins usually accompany it, and if they haven't already, they will. Unthankfulness is often sown with greed, faithlessness, and selfishness. In Numbers 11, it was the greedy who perished (v. 34) and whenever the Israelites groused about insufficient food or water, it showed their weak trust in God.
There are innumerable reasons why we should be thankful, but the important question is: how can we be thankful? Join me next week as I undertake answering that question.
Mariposa is a self-taught artist who captures the glories of God's creation on canvas. She has a Ph.D. in creativity and a masters degree in imagination.
Aberdeen is a book-eating, ink-drinking dinosaur from the createtus period. When he isn't falling into plot holes or taking cover from the volcano of ideas, he's hanging out with Dee-Dee the doodledactyl. Read full bio