A psychology phrase, “hostile dependence,” describes a state that must depend on someone else, but is not appreciated.
That means being in a state of tension. One may not like the person, the nature of their gifts nor the fact of one’s dependence on them, but there is no option. Atheists feel the problem acutely in the spiritual realm.
While feeling pleased, they dislike their dependence and reject the giver. Many missionaries dislike fundraising for the same reason.
Though they appreciate the donation, they dislike their dependence on the donors to carry on their religious outreach. The only alternative to hostile dependence, especially toward a loving benefactor, is grateful dependence.
It is the essence of thanksgiving. Unfortunately, many believers in God try to walk the fine line between hostile dependence and grateful dependence, being convinced that non-hostility toward God is the same as gratitude.
Nothing could be more antithetical to the spirit of thanksgiving. We need to develop thanksgiving into a wholesome and active philosophy of living. Defining thanksgiving The general definition of “thanksgiving” is “a conscious joyful emotion toward unearned blessing.”
Christian thanksgiving would extend that into “an awareness and expression of personal dependence on the ultimate giver of all good things.” Thanksgiving, then, would be intentional, not a default stance in Christian living.
A grateful person is aware of joyful emotion in receiving unearned favour. The more unearned your gift, the more thankful you are. It is expressed by: • Thanksfeeling: “A happy emotion, a gladness to have what is given,” says one dictionary in describing thanksgiving. You must experience a glad feeling of thanks to a giver. A critical or complaining spirit would hardly accompany feelings of gratitude. Remember the “thankful” pharisee in the New Testament (Luke 18:11) who used the right verbal formula for having done the right thing? His feelings of self-righteous self-congratulation were not those of thanks at all.
There was pride rather than gladness in his heart for his abilities.
• Thankssaying: Feelings of thanks are better expressed by saying and doing thanks.
The Old Testament Book of Psalms contains many genres of thanksgiving. “It is good to give thanks to the Lord,” opens Psalm 92.
It’s really by thankssaying that the psalmist clarifies the virtue of public thanksgiving. We say thanks to God in public because God is good, but also because thanksgiving in itself is good.
• Thanksdoing: Gratitude not only identifies the donor as giver and generates the appropriate attitude, but also motivates actions that will please the giver.
There is grateful conduct toward the donor and the grateful use of the gift.
Conduct motivated by thanks is easier to execute than those motivated by rewards. God uses both kinds of motivations in our obedience. Since we are clearer about blessings already received, we can be better motivated by God’s grace than by future rewards to be obtained by our good works yet.
• Thanksliving: Year-round, lifelong thanksgiving, then, is thanksliving. “Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done” (Colossians 2:7).
Thanksliving comprises thanksfeeling, thankssaying and thanksdoing all day, every day. Indeed, all eternity will resound with your thanksgiving as you understand the “of course” of all circumstances and experiences in your life and in all reality. We have a choice between hostile or grateful dependence on God, our creator, redeemer and sustainer.
Christmas does not follow Thanksgiving. That’s a calendar view of existence.
After Thanksgiving comes . . . Thanksgiving . . . and that precedes Thanksgiving.
Let’s thank God for all we have by thanksgiving and trust him for all we need by thanksliving.
Narayan Mitra is pastor of Merritt Baptist Church. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. KTW welcomes submissions to its Faith page. Columns should be between 600 and 800 words in length and can be emailed to editor@ kamloopsthisweek.com. Please include a very short bio and a photo.