THANKFULNESS (LESSON 4)
(Continued from Lesson 3)
Sometimes when we are unthankful, it drives us far from God. But sometimes Christians who are supposedly walking with the Lord become unthankful. This unthankfulness is somewhat more subtle. It can take the form of envy and jealousy. Before you know it, you are so busy focusing on what someone else has that you forget to stop and give thanks for those things that you enjoy. That is what happened to the older brother in this Bible account. Let's pick up the story there:
Luke 15:25-30, "Now, the elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf."
Now, remember, the older brother lived in the house with the father. He sounds like he was a pretty respectful son who followed his father's instructions. And while his brother had deserted the family and was away partying and wasting his inheritance, the elder brother stayed put. So when the younger brother came home, the elder brother was upset that their father would throw such a lavish welcome home party. The elder brother did not think that his little brother deserved to be treated by their father in such a way.
* Is there anyone here who can relate to the elder brother? How many of us have at one time felt slighted because someone whom we thought was unworthy got the promotion? How many of us been irritated because someone whom we felt was a sinner seemed to be prospering? Who here has secretly thought, "But I'm much prettier, smarter, harder working, more righteous (You fill in the blank) than so-and-so," and you were frustrated because someone else attained something that you did not attain? I believe if we are honest, we can all say that at some point we have felt the way the elder brother felt. We wanted to cry out, "Father, why him and not me?" As a matter of fact, these feelings are so common, that a guy named Asaph even wrote a verse in the Bible saying the same thing: Psalm 73:3, "For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."
The Bible warns us about envy and jealousy. Those kinds of feelings make it impossible for us to experience true thankfulness. Proverbs 14:30 reads, "A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones." The elder brother went from enjoying living with his father, to not even wanting to go into the house. It's as though this fellow was not only mad at his brother for coming back, but mad at his father for welcoming him back. I bet the son had no problem comforting his father when his brother was gone, but now he could not share in his father's joy upon the return of his brother. The elder son was too wrapped up in his feelings of "What about me?"
Well, let's see what his father told him: Luke 15:31-32, "And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."
The father reminded the elder son that he had already bestowed upon him everything that he had, and that the elder son had daily access to him. The father was reminding the son to look around, to remember, and to realize that there was nothing to be jealous of. And if we as Christians lose focus of all that our Heavenly Father has done for us, God would say to us, "Son, why are you unhappy? Daughter, you have a place reserved next to me in heaven. My child, your name is written in my Book of Life. I have gone to prepare a mansion for you in heaven. I even shed my blood to make a way for you. And day by day you have my guidance, my protection, and my love." While the younger brother was lost and alone and desperate in the big city, the older son was safe at home with their father. He could talk to the father whenever he wanted. If he had a problem or concern, the father was right there with him to give him guidance and protection. What he had was more valuable than 100 parties. And no matter what your circumstance, if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, YOU are richer more blessed than all of God's other created children who are still in the world living for sin and separated from God. But an unthankful heart will have you so busy looking at what the guy next to you has that you become blind and lose focus of all that you have been blessed with.
I don't know about you, but I'm the richest person I know, and it doesn't have anything to do with money. I don't deserve anything from God but hell for all of the sins I've committed. But in God's gracious mercy, He made a way for me to not have to pay the price for my sins. Jesus died for me and took the punishment I deserved. He gave me new life, welcomed me into His eternal family, and promised me life in heaven with Him when I die and leave this earth. If that were all that God ever did for me, that is more than enough to be thankful for. Who am I to be mad at God because God blesses someone else too? Who am I to say what someone else deserves? Do I have the right to tell God how he should treat you or to be mad if and when someone, even if they were my sworn enemy, comes to know Christ as their Lord and Savior too? No. I should say, "Welcome home, brother. Welcome home."
And if there is some person who never turns from their sin, I shouldn't worry if they are living the good life and being successful either. I should have faith that God is in control and that God will judge that person in accordance to their life when it's time. The bible even says, Psalm 37:7, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass."
Now let's read another Bible account of some different men who could not be happy and thankful because of they were blinded by jealousy. This is a story that Jesus told for us to learn from.
Matthew 20:1-7, "For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive."
So here we have a vineyard owner who hired some workers for the day. Let's say he started at 6:00 a.m. in the morning. He agreed to pay these guys a penny for a full day of work. They agreed. They were happy to have the job! You have to remember that this is 2000 years ago. A penny was the average amount people would get for a day of work, and in our money it would be about 15 cents. But back then it was enough to buy about ten asses.
Anyway, so those first workers are working in the vineyard. Then at 9:00 the vineyard owner hired some more guys to work in his field. He told them, "Whatsoever is right I will give you." So they went to the field. Then at 12:00, 3:00, and 5:00 p.m. the vineyard owner did the same thing and hired more workers. And all of these workers were very grateful and thankful for the chance to earn some money. But let's see what happened later at quitting time.
Matthew 20:8-9, "So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny."
Did you catch that? The guys who were hired at 5:00 p.m. and that had only worked an hour received a full day's pay! So the other guys probably were rubbing their hands together, thinking, "Oh, boy, the vineyard owner is probably going to really give us some big bucks!!" Let's read on:
Matthew 20:10-12, "But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day."
These men went from being thankful to the vineyard owner for giving them a job to then later basically crying out, "Unfair, unfair. We deserve more." Oh, how quickly the heart can change. Let's see what the vineyard owner told them:
Matthew 20:13-15, "But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?"
The vineyard owner spelled it out to them that he could be as generous as he wanted to whomever he wanted. And what right did they have to call him unfair! He didn't take anything from them. He didn't cheat anybody. It was his money.
And everything created in this world belongs to God. Who are we to ever compare what God does for someone else to what He does for us? Again, God doesn't owe us anything. You and I both deserve hell. But God gives us the chance to become heirs, His adopted children. So if you are now a child of God, realize that you have much to be thankful for. Never become envious or covet what someone else has. In doing that, you are showing God that you are not really thankful at all.
* Titus 3:3-7, "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."