“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
What a quote to consider as we look around our homes and our communities, observing stuff here and there, cluttered about. The world’s definition of rich broadcasts loudly across luring commercials and persistent social media ads, leading us to conclude the great value of material wealth. Perhaps it has become our definition too.
The trouble is, we also recognize no matter how much we have, there’s always more to be had, and that having does not equal happiness.
We’ve likely witnessed pain and hurt caused by money. As grandparents pass away and children fight for what’s left, no wonder Paul tells Timothy, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith” (1 Tim 6:10a) - caught up with the life and stuff, we easily forget.
Spending six years living in rural Africa, where many in the community lived on less than $1 a day, a stark awareness of my wealth surfaced. Facing survival every single day, their list of needs amounted to food, tools, shelter, and health, while still hoping and wishing for more. We strived to meet them all as best we could, in all the ways we could, by providing medical care, loans for crops, and rides to the hospital – the constant reminder, it was never enough.
As Corrie Ten Boom once said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that, I still possess.” Everything I’ve had, or will have, can be lost in a single moment. Whether my health or my possessions, in an instant, things can change.
While it’s a truly humbling thought, it’s also empowering. For it’s not inside the world our satisfaction, contentment or our hope is found; it’s in giving up the world for heavenly treasures. To redeem his creation, the Father did not use something material, rather the lifeblood of his son; we “were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1Pet 1:18-19). The one who had no sin came to be sin for us, this is our only hope in life and death.
As we walk in our salvation, we’re admonished, “as for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17). What a gift of God, to provide salvation for his children, not only for eternity, but is our daily gift of grace. The new mercies he lavishes on us as the sun rises each morning, our hearts call out gratitude to the One who gave everything for us.
How every sunset paints new combinations of colors, reminding us of God’s creative work in our life each day; how exploring new trails reveals uncertainty, showing us every new season and challenge has a beginning and an end; the sacred moments with someone in crisis, where pieces of healing take place. Our expressions of gratitude are a gift we’d otherwise never experience unless tuning our attention toward him.
Recounting the goodness of God and his provisions, first and foremost in Christ, leads us to the deep satisfaction we long for, the richness we are searching for in life, the hope of our inheritance we are waiting for.
May we cry out along with the psalmist, “whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps 73:25-26).