We said last week that nobody likes to be around a complainer, although many complainers would say they’re not complaining but just sharing facts. In their mind, they have a legitimate right to let everyone know how they’ve been short-changed, gotten a bad deal, or experienced something that no one else has gone through.
Have you ever heard your kids say, “I’m starving”? And perhaps you think, “Do you really know what starving is?” Or what about people waving their very expensive phones around as they complain, “Isn’t there any WiFi here?!”
This isn’t a glass half-full or half-empty thing. This is really closing your eyes to the fact that many people don’t even have a glass, or if they do have a glass, they don’t have access to the water that they need.
I was delivering some Christmas toys to a family and I discovered they had lost everything they owned. When I came to their house their furniture was mismatched, their food and clothes were donated, and their kids only had a couple of simple toys to play with. And yet this family was happy to be together!
That sort of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
We have to choose grumbling or gratefulness, but as E.M. Bounds noted, “Gratitude and murmuring never abide in the same heart at the same time.” So if you are complaining about what you don’t have, you cannot be grateful for what you do have.
There is a fascinating story told in all four Gospels of a woman named Mary. She was an uninvited guest at a house where Jesus and His disciples had been invited to dinner. Jesus was not there because someone was grateful to have Him in his home, but because Simon the Pharisee and his cronies were trying to find a reason to accuse Jesus of wrongdoing.
Simon was so focused on his “gotcha” moment that he completely overlooked his host duties. He didn’t wash Jesus’ feet, nor greet Him with a kiss, nor anoint Him with perfume, as the custom of the day demanded. But Mary, standing behind Jesus at the dinner table, washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, kissed His feet, and anointed Him with an entire bottle of costly perfume! She did all of this out of gratitude for what she had received from Jesus.
- a seat at the table—even though the dinner was in her hometown of Bethany, her brother Lazarus was invited to the meal, and her sister Martha was serving the meal
- a good reputation—twice Simon the Pharisee said, “Does Jesus even know what kind of woman she is? Does He know she is a sinner?”
- the acceptance or approval of others—even the disciples thought her gesture of anointing Jesus with so much perfume was a wasted extravagance
Next, let’s look at what Simon did have:
- an elevated position as a Pharisee
- considerable wealth—he had servants and a home large enough for a big dinner party
- healing from leprosy—the Gospels refer to him as “Simon the leper” which tells us that he had been healed of his leprosy
Now, let’s consider what the disciples did have:
- an enviable position as disciples of Jesus
- a dinner invitation to Simon’s house
- access to the financial resources that people gave to Christ’s ministry
- and let us never overlook the fact that they had access to Jesus Himself like no one else had
Finally, let’s look at what Mary did have:
- forgiveness—Luke says this about her, “A woman who HAD lived a sinful life”
Gratitude is truly a great attitude. Grateful people stand out because they don’t grumble about what they don’t have, but they are focused on what they do have.
Mary knew that she didn’t have the outward marks of success or favor or approval, but she did have the assurance that she had been forgiven. For that, she was more than willing to give everything she had to Jesus in thankful worship!
And as a result, look what Mary now has:
- the kind words of Jesus—He assured her that she was forgiven (Luke 7:47)
- Jesus as her defender—He told His disciples, “Leave her alone” (John 12:7)
- an eternal testimony—Jesus said that wherever the Gospel was preached, people would tell Mary’s story (Matthew 26:13)
I think a good way to sum up the distinguishing way grateful people live is like this: They don’t grumble about what they don’t have, but they are extremely grateful for what they do have.
When you find grumbling slipping out of your mouth, remind yourself of just how much you have been given. Even if you think to yourself, “I don’t have much,” you can be assured that you have Jesus, and He is more than enough! And with that assurance, let your gratitude be lifted up in extravagant, fragrant praise to God.
If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series The Great Attitude of Gratitude, you can find the full list by clicking here.
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