Why do we give thanks? On the surface, gratitude is a natural response to good favor. When life is good and we are blessed, our instinct is to be thankful. For religious people, however, thanksgiving is often practiced with another, concealed agenda. Beneath the surface, sometimes even hidden from our own awareness, is a more manipulative motive: If I offer these prayers, if I give these sacrifices and if I show my gratitude for past blessings, then perhaps God will bless me again.
Some give thanks to God for the same reason a person gives a generous gratuity at a restaurant they frequent ‒ to ensure the same positive service the next time they call upon God for help. In this scenario, gratitude is predicated upon a consumeristic or superstitious vision of God.
There is another, purer form of thanksgiving which seeks nothing in return. We see this displayed in Luke 17. While passing through a village, ten lepers cried out to Jesus for mercy. He instructed the lepers to present themselves to the temple priests, and on their way all ten were healed. One, however, returned to Jesus, fell on his face, and gave Him thanks.
Why didn’t the other nine return and offer their gratitude as well? Most likely because they had already received what they desired; they were already healed and there was nothing more to be gained by giving thanks to Jesus.
For the nine, and for many of us, gratitude is a transactional practice. We worship, praise and express gratitude because we’re expecting something in return, and when no return is possible, or no further blessing is desired, we see no need to offer our thanks to God.
For the one leper who returned, however, giving thanks was pure. He thanked Jesus because he was overwhelmed with gratitude not just for his healing, but to the One who healed him. Pure thanksgiving is possible when we focus on the source of our blessings rather than merely the blessings themselves.
Reflect upon a time when someone expressed pure gratitude to you without any agenda. How did it make you feel? Would you describe your gratitude toward God as pure or laced with hidden motives?
(Excerpt from Whole-Life Generosity Devotional, used with permission from GenerousChurch).