UCAN Spirituality Catholic Church News

Grace and Gratitude

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2 Corinthians 4:15

It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

John Piper

Gratitude flourishes in the sphere of grace. And that is why the play on words in 2 Corinthians 4:15 is significant. Grace is charis and gratitude is eucharistian because gratitude is a response to grace. Gratitude is the feeling of happiness you feel toward somebody who has shown you some undeserved kindness, that is, who has been gracious to you….

The reason the spreading of grace increases gratitude is because gratitude is the happy feeling directed toward a person who does us some undeserved favor. The person our gratitude is directed to in verse 15 is Jesus Christ and God the Father through him. In verse 5 Paul said, “What we preach is not ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord.” Therefore, the grace that spreads as Paul pursues his ministry is the grace given by Jesus. Chapter 8, verse 9, defines this for us pretty clearly: “For you know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”

Grace begins when one person is full and another is empty. One person is a have and the other a have-not. One is rich; the other is poor. Then grace comes into action as the emptiness of one is filled up by the fullness of the other. What we do not have is supplied by what he has. Our poverty is replaced by his wealth. And all that not because we deserve it, but because Jesus is gracious. His riches are free. Therefore, gratitude wells up in the hearts of those who “receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17). This gratitude to Christ, which marks all true believers (Romans 1:21), is more than saying, “Thank you,” or trying to return some service; it is more than being glad you are free from condemnation; it is being glad toward Jesus for the riches of salvation and the way he made it ours. When the grace of Jesus penetrates the human heart, it rebounds back to God as gratitude. Christian gratitude is grace reflected back to God in the happiness we feel toward Jesus….

Hudson Taylor, who endured great hardships and tragedies in his lifelong mission work in China, said when he was old, “I never made a sacrifice.” What he meant was that along the path of self-denying service you experience so much joyful gratitude for God’s sustaining grace that, whatever you forsake to buy that pearl, it is as if there were no sacrifice at all. Therefore, a life that gives glory to God for his grace and a life of deepest gladness are always the same life. And what makes them one is gratitude.