Care Instructions for a Life Worth Living

Duration: 365 days

The Ecstasy of GratitudeIn the Gospel of Luke, we read the story of ten healed of leprosy by Jesus…all were healed; one, a Samaritan, came back to Jesus to thank him, and Jesus said:

“Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (NIV, Luke 17: 17-18)

Ten men were cleansed. Ten were given their life back. Only one turned around. Nine ran the wrong way. Only one came back to thank the Giver for the gift. When I read the story of Jesus and the lepers, I wonder why the only grateful one was the Samaritan. I wonder if the fact that he was Samaritan and Jesus was Jewish made him that much more aware of what a gracious gift this was. Having too much can make a person ungrateful. The illusion of gratitude is that we will experience it more if we get new stuff that we really want.

We tend to keep score by comparing ourselves to others. When it comes to affluence, for instance, we tend to follow what psychologist Leon Festinger calls the “principle of slight upward comparison.” We chronically compare ourselves with those just a little better off, in the hopes of attaining their level of success. This keeps us from gratitude. It also keeps our eyes off people who are under resourced so that we don’t think about our need to share.

God gives us the gift of the capacity for gratitude. Gratitude is the ability to experience life as a gift. It opens us up to wonder, delight, and humility. It makes our hearts generous. It liberates us from the prison of self-preoccupation. Gratitude is the gift God gives us that enables us to be blessed by all his other gifts, the way our taste buds enable us to enjoy the gift of food. Without gratitude, our lives degenerate into envy, dissatisfaction, and complaints, taking what we have for granted and always wanting more.

We can have very little and yet be rich. A rich soul experiences life differently. It experiences a sense of gratitude for what it has received, rather than resentment for what it hasn’t gotten. It faces the future with hope rather than anxiety.

We break rules — we violate God’s will — because we think breaking them will help us win, or at least avoid pain. But what we do not see is that the very breaking of them turns us into the kind of people who are increasingly incapable of the gratitude and purity of heart that makes lasting happiness and meaning possible.

The great secret joy of life — the prize that we think getting richer will bring us — is the ecstasy of gratitude. Gratitude is how those rich toward God — rich in being, not just having — play the game.

The apostle Paul discovered that whether he was living in luxury or living in prison he had more than enough, because he had been freed from the treadmill of having. Are you experiencing the ecstasy of gratitude, or on the treadmill of having?

© 2014 by Zondervan. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Visit JohnOrtberg.com for more about John Ortberg’s work and ministry.

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