At church this morning, the sermon was about gratitude. The pastor talked about how kids came to his door on Halloween, and some of them thanked him for the candy that he gave them, whereas others just went to the next house, without a simple “thank you”! The pastor related this to the story in Luke 17:11-19, in which Jesus healed ten lepers, and only one of them came back to thank him. The pastor also went into the issue of calling on Jesus for mercy—-of making our requests to God, leaving it up to God to answer them as we see fit, and thanking God if he provides. The pastor did address a crucial question: How can we talk about God’s provision, when there are so many people in the world who lack? But the pastor said that we do not know the answer to this question. My impression was that the pastor had compassion for those who lack—-whether they be in other countries or in the United States—-and there were parts of his sermon and his pastoral prayer that said that we should seek God’s mercy for ourselves and for them, as well as help them concretely.
I thought about some of these issues during the children’s message. The pastor’s granddaughter was reading a story about a guy whose mother needed a blood transfusion, but her blood-type was rare. The guy encountered by happenstance a returning soldier, who had that specific blood-type and was willing to donate his blood to help the guy’s mother. The guy wondered if the soldier was a soldier, or an angel. I wondered why God helped some people and not others, since there are many people in the world who actually do die of diseases. Could that guy legitimately thank God that he got a break, when there are many people who don’t get breaks? What makes him so special in God’s sight? Would it not be more appropriate for him to say that he’s fortunate rather than favored by God—-that he was lucky enough to live in a country that has fairly decent health care facilities, and to have met someone who happened to have his mother’s blood-type? I could say “yes”, but, then again, I have to admire the work that Christians do to bring health care and clean water to Third World countries. Being blessed (if that is indeed the case) is not an opportunity for people to pat themselves on the back that God favors them, but rather it provides a chance for them to help others. As Terry Silver said in Karate Kid III, “You get, you give.”
I think that it’s important for me to be thankful: to the people who have helped me, and also to God—-only I want to be thankful in an appropriate way.