Many years ago, a writing mentor counseled me with words I’ll never forget: “Dan, no matter how far you get in your career, always say ‘Thank you’ every time someone offers you an opportunity to write.”
I’ve never forgotten that advice. Maybe its because my mother taught me–no she actually insisted (you know how mothers can insist with some power)–that I always say thank you. It became a habit of mine, whether through notes or verbal expression or, now, through texts or emails.
It’s a simple thing, really, to say “Thank you.” I’ve noticed, however, that ingratitude is often the first sign of a troubled heart. When I stop saying “thank you” I know that sin has overcome me. And it seems this is what Paul is getting at in Romans. He says:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21 ESV)
At first it kind of seems silly of Paul to embed gratitude, a common courtesy, a display of manners, in amongst his retelling of the Fall and the curse of sin. How does ingratitude relate to bigger-ticket items like murder and mayhem and sexual violence?
It’s pretty simple, actually. We begin our journey way from God, not by murdering or sexual sin or embezzlement. We begin with simple ingratitude. When Satan whispered his seductive temptations to Eve, he didn’t begin with the promise to God-like powers. He began with a simple question: “Has God really said?” Buried in this is an indictment against the goodness of the Father. God has not been very good to you. God is holding out on you. God owes you something.
Or, really, you’d be a much better God than God. That’s what we are saying, isn’t it, when we are ungrateful? We’re saying that the Creator God is a deficient Father. We’re subtly grasping for more power than we were fit to possess. We’re worshipping at the altar of ourselves. This doesn’t end well.
Which is why a good test of the heart is to ask the question: “Have I stopped saying thank you?” Rebellion doesn’t begin with the big-ticket sins. It begins, rather innocently, with entitlement.
So train your heart, every time you are blessed, to say, “Thank you”, not only to the person who served you, but to the God who made you.
Oh, and teach your kids to say “Thank you.”