Expressing gratitude can be a tricky endeavor. Just think, for example, of the practice of tipping. Theoretically, tipping is supposed to be a way to express gratitude for a job well done, by giving above and beyond what is required. However, the reality is, minimum wage laws do not apply for many waiters and waitresses, and therefore they only get a guaranteed hourly wage that is a fraction of what is guaranteed to most other workers. For them, tips are not a nice extra they get for a job well done, tips are the majority of their take home pay. To refuse to tip a server does not simply mean you are expressing dissatisfaction with their service, it means they got paid next to nothing for the time they spent serving you. And by the way, it does not help the Christian cause that Sunday noon lunches are generally seen as the worst time for waiters and waitresses to work, because Christians are notoriously cheap when it comes to tipping.
In my research on tipping, I found suggestions about how to tip your exterminator, your contractor, your in-home health service provider, even your cable installer. To be honest with you, I’ve never tipped any of those kinds of workers. I didn’t know you were supposed to tip all these different kinds of workers!
And so, “you’re welcome,” when you come to church, know we have gotten rid of all the confusion! All you have to do is give God a 10% tip each week to show God your gratitude. No outrageous 15-20%, no automatically adding the gratuity onto your bill practices, no questions about was the worship service really worth a 10% tip today, or should we just give 5% because the preacher preached a little too long this week. Nope, just a flat 10% is all you have to do: God will be happy, the preacher will be happy, and you can be happy. Right?
Well, unfortunately, many people approach gratitude toward God the way they approach tipping. Their money is theirs to give if they value what has been provided for them by God at church. And if they do not think they are getting their money’s worth out of the ministries of the church, they will take their money someplace else to spend, like to Amazon. Or if their wants are bigger than their paychecks, they will make sure all their bills are paid first and then only give to God what they may happen to have left over at the end of the month.
But this is not the way to approach God, acting as if what is ours is ours, and we will give to God whatever we think we can spare. That attitude believes we are owners of all we have. The truth is, all that we have is God’s. We are not owners, we are stewards.
You did not create your life. You did not buy your body. You did not build this world in which you work and play. You may have degrees and tools and certificates you can use to make money at different trades. But none of the raw talents or abilities you have were earned by you, they were given to you by God. And so, rather than seeing ourselves as owners of our possessions, our talents, our lives, we are really stewards. We are people to whom God has entrusted time, talent, and treasure. God has created us to use all these wisely, generously, and compassionately.
And when we do that, when we see God deserving not just a tip of what we have, but as being the source of all we have, we can live as a thankful people.
In Psalm 100, the Psalmist knows a proper expression of gratitude to God is not giving God a “tip,” but giving God all of ourselves. The Psalmist recognizes our very lives are a gift from God “It is he who made us.” And if that was not enough, when we strayed from God, he came to redeem and save us, “we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”
The recognition or reminder that we are not owners of our lives and possessions, but stewards entrusted with our lives and possessions should bring a great outpouring of gratitude and joy. This is the greatest offering we can give to God: gratitude and joy. To be thankful for what God has given to us, to express joy for God’s great love poured out upon our lives is far more powerful than a huge check given with clenched fists.
Are you thankful? I’m not asking if you have everything you want. We Americans are taught from a young age to never be content with what we already have, but to always want more. Are you grateful for what God has already given to you? Your life, your talents and abilities, your status as a beloved creation of God?
We are to live as a Thankful People. Living gratefully for all the gifts God has entrusted to us - life, abilities, salvation, love. And what does that look like? What does it look like to live a thankful life?
Well, for one, it means not looking upon God as a waiter who is to be tipped. Who is to be given a little bit of what we have based on how happy we are. No, we recognize God as Lord, who is worthy of more than all we will ever possess. And so we do not tip God with a little bit of what we have left over, we surrender to God all that we are. We see ourselves not as our own people guiding our own life, but our life becomes open for God to use to build his kingdom here. We see our relationships, not as our own relationships, but as opportunities to share and express the love of God. We see our talents and abilities not as simply ways for us to make money, but as gifts to be used to provide for our families and for the needs of others. We see our future, not wrapped up in the newest gadget we can buy, but as a canvas for God to use to paint a beautiful picture. We see all that we already possess, not as our own accomplishment, but as the blessings God has already entrusted to us.
So here is your mission this week, be a Thankful People by praising God and holding nothing back from Christ.