From time to time, people express gratitude for something I have done for them. Normally, I smile and nod while uttering the pre-programmed “you’re welcome” in reply. In the back of my head, I often think that whatever it is I did was for someone who deserved it. Given the fact that so many people have offered so much to me, I don’t see my actions as something worthy of gratitude, but often as something they were worthy of. I like to be recognized and appreciated as much as the next guy, but have a hard time hearing “thank you” from people whose hands are an extension of God in my own life. I owe God more than I could ever repay, and if they are an extension of Him, then I also owe them that same debt.
In a recent discussion with some of my fellow young adults, we examined portions of Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
It was Ephesians 2:8-10 that particularly struck me, which reads “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”
We talked briefly about ways we might be able to spread the Good News and share the infectious light with those who may have been in the darkness. And verse 8 in particular gave me an idea (“it is not from works, so no one may boast”). On a regular basis, people may thank us for something we have done. Some of these people who offer us thanks may be our fellow Christians, who we hope have in the back of their minds that what we have done is from God.
Just as often as I receive thanks from fellow Christians, I receive thanks from people who may be without faith or fallen from their faith or whose faith I know nothing about.
And an Opportunity is Upon Us
I am about to talk about one of those ‘easier-said-than-done’ type of proposals. With society becoming dangerously secular, using every opportunity to reflect the light of Christ within us is not only critical but is also increasingly challenging. Each time someone offers us thanks, it gives us a chance to inform them (either subtly or bluntly) that the gratitude belongs to God. Our abilities are a credit to God and that means that all that we do is in His name. It may be something simple like replying with “Amen”.
Why “Amen”? Well, a tremendously important part of prayer is offering thanks. Therefore, when that person offers you appreciation, your “Amen” turns their statement into a prayer. You are lifting their prayers up to our Heavenly Father as well as affirming your knowledge to Him that you are enabled to do what you do through Him.
This will also offer you opportunities to evangelize. After hearing it a time or two, a person may simply inquire why you reply that way when they say “thank you”. You are then presented with a chance to let them know how you feel about your own abilities as being gifts of God.
A More Reasonable Approach
I don’t expect for people to suddenly start replacing the words “you’re welcome” with “Amen” as a response to gratitude. While that might certainly be a refreshing way to reintroduce and infuse our faith into the secular culture, we can take an easier step (at least for now). I would like each of us to take a moment to pass that thanks where it belongs – to God. While doing a daily examination of conscience, look back at times throughout the day that we received thanks that is His and His alone. Or perhaps in real-time, after you’ve finished with the societal pleasantries, pause for a moment and pass the word along to our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Take time to remind people that the thanks weren’t necessary. When they utter something like “I owe you big time”, just politely let them know that is also not necessary. We should try to avoid keeping score – do not stockpile the small goodwill gestures as a means of cashing them in for repayment.
We know a few things about doing good deeds. One of the things we know is that doing good on earth is a means of imitating Christ with the goal of earning our place in eternal life. Another thing we know is that if we make sincere efforts to do good for those around us, those around us will make sincere efforts to do good for us.
A Moment of Prayer
My request of you this day is for you to pray that I may find the fortitude to explain that whatever good people see in me is my best effort to imitate Christ. Please pray that my earthly pilgrimage fulfills God’s plan for me and that the light inside of me continues to shine brighter.
For each of you, I pray that you channel the thanks to those around you – though the glory and honor belong to God, we are all human and need that connection. I also pray that your continued introspection and prayer provide you with an illustration of God’s plan for you as well as the strength to honor Him in all that you do.