Thursday, December 13, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10, 11:13)

We might think of each day, from the time we wake up to the time we go back to sleep, as a journey. During this short journey, the only remaining journey we may have, we interact with other people as we encounter challenges. It is these challenges, and our responses to them, that constitute the adventures of our lives.

Ecclesiastes offers us some wisdom on how to respond creatively to these daily adventures. Overall, he gives us this advice: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone (12:13b, New Revised Standard Version, here and following).

Fear God: this does not mean, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” By this expression, Ecclesiastes encourages us to take God seriously. He tells us that our good journey lies in taking God more seriously than we do the six false yet conventional gods of Olympianity. As Christians, we journey better as we keep Jesus as lord uppermost in our minds.

Keep his commandments. To stay focused on Jesus, we need to hear and affirm his words. Our good lord speaks to us on our daily journey through words we think, hear, and read. To discern the difference between his words and those of the gods, we need to read the Bible. Jesus is fond of the Bible and speaks to us through its words and the words we think, hear, and read that are consistent with it. When we hear his words and then do them, we respond more creatively to the challenges we face.

Jesus speaks to us today through these words of Ecclesiastes: eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart (5:7). Each day on our journey, Jesus blesses us with food and drink. Through these words, he also blesses us with the ability to enjoy them and to sustain an attitude of gratitude for them as gifts we need not take for granted. This daily journey, then, is never one of weariness only. We may experience little celebrations each day by paying attention to each bite we take and savoring each sip of wine we drink. In this way, the very simple tasks of preparing, eating, and cleaning up may become signs and wonders of his gracious presence on our journey.

Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head (5:8). Through these words, the Holy Spirit empowers us to be a positive emotional presence with others. Sometimes the little adversities that confront us can tempt us to plunge ourselves into moods of anger, sadness, or fear. This is easy to do but not necessary. Here the Spirit promises to grant us the strength and good cheer we need, when confronted by challenges, to respond creatively to them by radiating her positive emotional energy to others.

Enjoy life with the [spouse] whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun (5:9). Through these words, Jesus reminds us that each day of our journey is a gift. Each day, like each person, is unique, precious, and irreplaceable. Through these words of truth, Jesus frees us to be grateful for our one true love. It is easier, of course, as we journey through each day, to collect small resentments toward our one true love. It takes so little time to amass a fatal store of anger! Here the Spirit empowers us to share small expressions of gratitude, rather than of resentment, each day with those closest to us and with others less close as well.

Whatever your hands find to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going (5:10). Since work takes up so much of our day, most of our adventures will relate to it. Through these words, Jesus invites us to sustain an attitude of gratitude at work as well. This might not seem so simple. But each day, he grants us all the wisdom, strength, courage, and good cheer we need to relish our work and respond creatively to its challenges. It just takes practice to get good at it. Happily, we rarely suffer a lack of necessary challenges.

Each day, our gracious lord blesses us with food and drink to enjoy, a chance to wear some bright clothes and shine, people with whom to share conviviality, and work at which to excel. Most importantly, the Spirit enables us to cultivate an attitude of gratitude toward these great blessings by empowering us to do so—for the sake of our character, the good of others, and God’s glory.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.