The Danger of Ingratitude

There is a deadly poison that contaminates the air we breathe. It’s a poison that, if we are aware of it at all, seems innocuous to us both because everyone else is breathing it in, and as far as we’re aware of it, others are breathing more of it in than us.

The poison is ingratitude. And it is everywhere.

Everything (that I don’t have) is Awesome

Psychologists agree that social media has made us less happy. Why is that? Because the constant access into others’ lives taps into our propensity toward ingratitude. We are surrounded by neighbors with nicer cars, friends who take better and longer vacations, couples who are happier, and everyone seems to be fitter and better dressed than we are. And it’s all there for us to see tucked into that powerful, shiny rectangle in our pockets. Every minute of every day.

The Ancient Beginnings of Ingratitude.

The story of how it all fell apart is a story you’ve heard. The perfection and  responding gratitude lasts all of two chapters in the Bible before it’s spoiled. God has created a man and a woman and they are living alongside him in peace. God allows space for this man and this woman to push against the way he made things. He creates a tree in the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and he says “Everything is yours for taking and enjoying except this one. This one you need to stay away from.”[i] Here’s the question: would they be content with the 99.9% of what they were given, or would they be discontent with the .1% they weren’t given? Would ingratitude set it? That .1% was the sliver Satan slid through.

After testing their knowledge (“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”[ii]), Satan goes in for the kill, challenging God’s character and filling the air with the poison of ingratitude: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”[iii]

And at this moment, Eve breathes in the poison of ingratitude and her perspective of the forbidden object is transformed: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”[iv]

Eve agrees with Satan – it does look good. And why wouldn’t God let her have something good? And with that shift in heart, from gratitude to ingratitude, the first domino falls.

We are Adam and Eve

This is us. We are those who, left on our own, are ungrateful.

In our ingratitude we reject God. In our gratitude we tune our heart to God’s.

The author who I’ve learned more about gratitude from than anyone outside of scripture is Ann Voskamp. She says this about this sin, “Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate. And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.”[v]

Being ungrateful seems like a small thing. It feels like a petty thing in the scope of life. But it’s a huge thing. And it’s pervasive. It’s in all of us. Blow out the noxious air of ingratitude from your lungs and breathe in the sweet air of gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Exchanging Ingratitude for the Fount of Blessing

Don’t miss your opportunity to cultivate a heart of gratitude this Thanksgiving. Don’t miss an opportunity to align your heart with God’s heart.

When we see that which we’ve always seen with eyes of gratitude and joy, we reflect the very heart of God back to him. We are being who we were intended to be, who Adam and Eve were intended to be: an attentive, grateful people. What did those first two chapters of the Bible look like? It was a thanksgiving-fest. Again and again God is delighted with his creation. Like a drum beat God responds with delight to each new phase of his creation. “And God saw that it was good,”[vi] “Then God looked over all that he had made, and he saw that it was very good!”[vii]

There is a great hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” whose words speak powerfully of this truth.

Come, thou fount of every blessing,

Tune my heart to sing thy grace

Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

Thanksgiving tunes our heart to God’s heart. The world, the streams, the stars, the ravens, all cry out for our praise. May we, this Thanksgiving, more deeply adore God and reflect back into his world the gratitude he so richly deserves.


Photo credit: Sandis Helvigs/Unsplash