Ahhhh, November. That glorious time of year when I am overwhelmed by everything “pumpkin spice” and bombarded by social media “gratitude challenges.”
To be fair, I see a lot of benefit in keeping some sort of personal gratitude journal. Daily reflection on the blessings we’ve received is a great first step to developing the spiritual discipline of gratitude. We’re instructed in song, after all, to “count your many blessings, see what God has done.”
But sometimes social media reflections on gratitude seem to turn into brag-fests or competitions. Even as we reflect on those things we’re grateful for, dissatisfaction creeps in as we subconsciously compare our list of blessings to our friends’ lists. Or worse yet, our blessings become a source of personal pride.
In 2 Corinthians 9:9-11 we read, “As it is written: ‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’ Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (NIV).
I was pondering that passage earlier this year—not in preparation for Thanksgiving, but in anticipation of Easter. During that special season of Lent, some Christians make a point of giving something up. I felt called to encourage my congregation to give something away instead. Our focus was to give away our gratitude—to share our grace, a word that shares the same root.
We live in a culture where there is a gratitude gap. This gap is defined as the difference between what we believe and what we practice. Meditating on the things for which we are thankful may build up feelings of gratitude and contentment within us, but does it move the community and the society in which we live toward gratitude?
In her book Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, Diana Butler Bass suggests that society benefits from our acts and expressions of gratitude. She proclaims that we live in a society overwhelmed with the fear of scarcity. Many are anxious that there simply isn’t enough go around. We worry that someone else will get what we deserve, leaving us unfairly lacking. Those feelings make us prisoners of dissatisfaction.
Her recommendation really resonates with me. She says that when we recognize and act out of our abundance—and quite frankly, by the world’s standards, we all live with abundance— our community becomes a safer and happier place. And when our generosity is offered in the name of Christ, it results in thanksgiving to God.
Join me this fall in closing the gap. Move beyond naming your blessings. Gratitude grows when we care enough to contribute. Our community flourishes. And our God is glorified.
Angela Finet pastors Nokesville (Va.) Church of the Brethren.