More from Lovejoypeaceforever

FUTURE GRACE 1 Like most precious things, gratitude is vulnerable. We easily forget that gratitude exists because sometimes things come to us “gratis”—without price or payment. When that happens, we should feel a pleasant sense of the worth of what we’ve received and the goodwill behind it. This pleasant sense is what we call gratitude. Then, spontaneously rising from this pleasant sense, come expressions of delight. We feel constrained with joy to acknowledge the gift and the goodwill behind it, and to express how good we feel about the gift and the heart of the giver. Gratitude corresponds to grace (“gratis”). This is true even when we feel thankful for something we have paid for. We sense that what we bought might have been disappointing in spite of our having enough money to buy it. It might not have been in such good condition; or it might not have been the exact one we wanted; or someone might have bought it before we did; or the transaction might have been harsh; or the timing might have been wrong for our intended use; or the price might have gone up just after we bought it. In other words, gratitude is not the feeling that we have been shrewd in the way we get things. It is the emotion that rises joyfully in response to something “gratis,” even in our purchases. But right at this point there lurks a danger. There is an impulse in the fallen human heart—all our hearts—to forget that gratitude is a spontaneous response of joy to receiving something over and above what we paid for. When we forget this, what happens is that gratitude starts to be misused and distorted as an impulse to pay for the very thing that came to us “gratis.” This terrible moment is the birthplace of the “debtor’s ethic.” The debtor’s ethic says, “Because you have done something good for me, I feel indebted to do something good for you.” This impulse is not what gratitude was designed to produce. God meant gratitude to be a spontaneous expression of pleasure in the gift and the good will of another. He did not mean it to be an impulse to return favors. If gratitude is twisted into a sense of debt, it gives birth to the debtor’s ethic—and the effect is to nullify grace. Don’t misunderstand me. Gratitude itself does not nullify grace. It exults in grace. It was created by God to echo grace. Even the thought that it can be twisted to serve evil shocks some people and makes them shrink back. Make no mistake, I exalt gratitude as a central biblical response of the heart to the grace of God. The Bible commands gratitude to God as one of our highest duties. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4). God says that gratitude honors Him: “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me” (Psalm 50:23). In spite of being vulnerable to misuse in the debtor’s ethic, gratitude is not guilty. We all know what the debtor’s ethic is, even if we’ve never called it this. Suppose you invite me over for dinner. It is certainly right for me to feel gratitude. But O, how easily we distort this spontaneous response of joy into an impulse to pay back. You gave me an invitation and now I owe you one. When our virtue—toward other people, or toward God—is born out of this sense of “paying back,” we are in the grip of the debtor’s ethic. What’s gone wrong? It’s not wrong to feel gratitude when someone gives us a gift. The trouble starts with the impulse that now we owe a “gift”. What this feeling does is turn gifts into legal currency. Subtly the gift is no longer a gift but a business transaction. And what was offered as free grace is nullified by distorted gratitude. It is remarkable how widespread and durable the debtor’s ethic is among Christians. Recently I heard a well known evangelical leader deliver a powerful message about the need for Americans to recover the call of duty and devotion to Christ. He used a compelling illustration about self-sacrifice. But his explanation of the spiritual dynamics of the sacrifice focused entirely on gratitude for what Christ had done. I sat there longing to hear a strong word about the essential role of hope as the sustaining power of laying your life down. But it didn’t come. This way of motivating duty and devotion seems harmless, even noble. Its appeal is strong. It speaks in words that are almost above criticism. For example, it might say, “God has done so much for you; now what will you do for him?” Or: “He gave you his very life; now how much will you give to him?” The refrain of an old hymn “I Gave My Life for Thee,” is hazardous language. In it Christ says, “I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for me?” And: “I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me?” I don’t mean that sentences like these must express the debtor’s ethic. I only mean that they easily can, and often do. In the debtor’s ethic the Christian life is pictured as an effort to pay back the debt we owe to God. Usually the concession is made that we can never fully pay it off. But “gratitude” demands that we work at it. Good deeds and religious acts are the installment payments we make on the unending debt we owe God. This debtor’s ethic often lies, perhaps unintentionally, beneath the words, “We should obey Christ out of gratitude.” This appeal to gratitude as a way of motivating Christians is so common it may come as a shock when I question whether it has much biblical support. But consider this for a moment. How many places in the Bible can you think of where gratitude or thankfulness is explicitly made the motive of moral behavior? I mean behaviors like treating people with love, and doing your business with integrity, and taking risks in the obedience of missions. Does the Bible tell us that these things are to be done “out of gratitude,” or “in the power of thankfulness” or “because we owe Jesus so much”? This is not nitpicking or incidental; it is amazing. If you ask Christians today, “What is the biblical motive for Christian obedience?” great numbers would say, “Gratitude to God.” And yet this way of thinking seems almost totally lacking in the Bible. The Bible rarely, if ever, explicitly makes gratitude the impulse of moral behavior, or ingratitude the explanation of immorality. This is stunning when you let it sink in. This most common way of talking about motivating Christian obedience is scarcely menti

10 views · Feb 8th
8 views · Feb 8th
8 views · Feb 8th

More from Lovejoypeaceforever

FUTURE GRACE 1 Like most precious things, gratitude is vulnerable. We easily forget that gratitude exists because sometimes things come to us “gratis”—without price or payment. When that happens, we should feel a pleasant sense of the worth of what we’ve received and the goodwill behind it. This pleasant sense is what we call gratitude. Then, spontaneously rising from this pleasant sense, come expressions of delight. We feel constrained with joy to acknowledge the gift and the goodwill behind it, and to express how good we feel about the gift and the heart of the giver. Gratitude corresponds to grace (“gratis”). This is true even when we feel thankful for something we have paid for. We sense that what we bought might have been disappointing in spite of our having enough money to buy it. It might not have been in such good condition; or it might not have been the exact one we wanted; or someone might have bought it before we did; or the transaction might have been harsh; or the timing might have been wrong for our intended use; or the price might have gone up just after we bought it. In other words, gratitude is not the feeling that we have been shrewd in the way we get things. It is the emotion that rises joyfully in response to something “gratis,” even in our purchases. But right at this point there lurks a danger. There is an impulse in the fallen human heart—all our hearts—to forget that gratitude is a spontaneous response of joy to receiving something over and above what we paid for. When we forget this, what happens is that gratitude starts to be misused and distorted as an impulse to pay for the very thing that came to us “gratis.” This terrible moment is the birthplace of the “debtor’s ethic.” The debtor’s ethic says, “Because you have done something good for me, I feel indebted to do something good for you.” This impulse is not what gratitude was designed to produce. God meant gratitude to be a spontaneous expression of pleasure in the gift and the good will of another. He did not mean it to be an impulse to return favors. If gratitude is twisted into a sense of debt, it gives birth to the debtor’s ethic—and the effect is to nullify grace. Don’t misunderstand me. Gratitude itself does not nullify grace. It exults in grace. It was created by God to echo grace. Even the thought that it can be twisted to serve evil shocks some people and makes them shrink back. Make no mistake, I exalt gratitude as a central biblical response of the heart to the grace of God. The Bible commands gratitude to God as one of our highest duties. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4). God says that gratitude honors Him: “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me” (Psalm 50:23). In spite of being vulnerable to misuse in the debtor’s ethic, gratitude is not guilty. We all know what the debtor’s ethic is, even if we’ve never called it this. Suppose you invite me over for dinner. It is certainly right for me to feel gratitude. But O, how easily we distort this spontaneous response of joy into an impulse to pay back. You gave me an invitation and now I owe you one. When our virtue—toward other people, or toward God—is born out of this sense of “paying back,” we are in the grip of the debtor’s ethic. What’s gone wrong? It’s not wrong to feel gratitude when someone gives us a gift. The trouble starts with the impulse that now we owe a “gift”. What this feeling does is turn gifts into legal currency. Subtly the gift is no longer a gift but a business transaction. And what was offered as free grace is nullified by distorted gratitude. It is remarkable how widespread and durable the debtor’s ethic is among Christians. Recently I heard a well known evangelical leader deliver a powerful message about the need for Americans to recover the call of duty and devotion to Christ. He used a compelling illustration about self-sacrifice. But his explanation of the spiritual dynamics of the sacrifice focused entirely on gratitude for what Christ had done. I sat there longing to hear a strong word about the essential role of hope as the sustaining power of laying your life down. But it didn’t come. This way of motivating duty and devotion seems harmless, even noble. Its appeal is strong. It speaks in words that are almost above criticism. For example, it might say, “God has done so much for you; now what will you do for him?” Or: “He gave you his very life; now how much will you give to him?” The refrain of an old hymn “I Gave My Life for Thee,” is hazardous language. In it Christ says, “I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for me?” And: “I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me?” I don’t mean that sentences like these must express the debtor’s ethic. I only mean that they easily can, and often do. In the debtor’s ethic the Christian life is pictured as an effort to pay back the debt we owe to God. Usually the concession is made that we can never fully pay it off. But “gratitude” demands that we work at it. Good deeds and religious acts are the installment payments we make on the unending debt we owe God. This debtor’s ethic often lies, perhaps unintentionally, beneath the words, “We should obey Christ out of gratitude.” This appeal to gratitude as a way of motivating Christians is so common it may come as a shock when I question whether it has much biblical support. But consider this for a moment. How many places in the Bible can you think of where gratitude or thankfulness is explicitly made the motive of moral behavior? I mean behaviors like treating people with love, and doing your business with integrity, and taking risks in the obedience of missions. Does the Bible tell us that these things are to be done “out of gratitude,” or “in the power of thankfulness” or “because we owe Jesus so much”? This is not nitpicking or incidental; it is amazing. If you ask Christians today, “What is the biblical motive for Christian obedience?” great numbers would say, “Gratitude to God.” And yet this way of thinking seems almost totally lacking in the Bible. The Bible rarely, if ever, explicitly makes gratitude the impulse of moral behavior, or ingratitude the explanation of immorality. This is stunning when you let it sink in. This most common way of talking about motivating Christian obedience is scarcely menti

10 views · Feb 8th
8 views · Feb 8th
8 views · Feb 8th