If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. (Psalm 130:3)
What should inform the thankfulness of a Christian? What should be its motive? The common remedy against grumbling for many is the “it could be worse” attitude. The mother says to her ungrateful eater, there are starving children who don’t get to eat. The unhappy employee sees the rising unemployment rates and complains a little less. Reader’s Digest recently gave 10 Reasons to be Thankful, which included larger homes compared to forty years ago, rising literacy among young people, and hundreds of television channels to watch anything we want, anytime we want.
As Christians, we should be thankful for God’s common grace. Our Lord cares for us and provides for our needs and we should increase in our thankfulness for his provision. John Calvin wrote that “thankfulness is the soil to which pride does not easily grow.” For Christians, there is a more fundamental level to our thankfulness: We no longer stand in God’s judgment. Our sins are forgiven. Someone else bore the wrath for our unrighteousness. The forgiveness of sins should make our hearts swell in thankfulness more than the two cars we have in our garage.
In fact, if our thankfulness is only informed by our material increase, then it is difficult to be thankful in times of great suffering. Yet, if our thankfulness is informed by the Gospel, then we can endure much poverty or affliction, awaiting our blessed hope.
Also, if the Gospel does not inform our thankfulness, it is difficult to forgive others when they sin against us. However, if our hearts are adorned with thankfulness for God’s saving work on our behalf, we will be quick to forgive. It is only with a Gospel-thankful heart that we can obey Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”