The Gift of Gratitude
Old Testament Reading- 1 Chronicles 29:10-13
New Testament Reading- Romans 1:20-23
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -November 20, 2022
There once was a man who dreamed all his life of being fabulously wealthy. He loved the cars that rich people could afford and the beautiful clothing that they wore. He fantasized about living in a large mansion with thirty rooms and his own movie theatre. Servants would take care of his every need, from running a bath to the best meals prepared that money could buy. He would have celebrity friends and he would travel the world in his own jet, meeting royalty and world leaders everywhere he went. He was enamored by the lifestyle of the rich and famous and could think of nothing else.
Our man’s name was Jesse and, as I mentioned before, he was consumed by the thought of being wealthy. When I say he was consumed by the thought, it was really that, he thought of nothing else, so much so that in all his fantasizing, he didn’t even go to work. His mother would ask him, “Jesse, how on earth are you ever going to become wealthy if you don’t go to work?” Jesse didn’t know, he was a dreamer, not a realist, he had no skills, no
connections, and no family pull in the community. He had no prospects or any real notion how he would become wealthy, and it was starting to drive him nuts.
One night Jesse was at a party. He didn’t know it, but he was being watched and was asked about by a stranger from another city. This stranger was no one’s friend at the party but happened to be more of a supplier to the person putting on the party. It so happened that this particular stranger was looking for some help and was willing to pay dearly to get it. He asked the person throwing the party if they knew anyone looking to make some money quick. Jesse’s name came up, mainly because he didn’t have a job and because he was apt to say yes to anything. Jesse’s appearance was perfect for this line of work because he was an everyday man, meaning he didn’t stand out in a crowd, he blended into everyday life and didn’t attract unnecessary attention to himself.
The stranger approached Jesse and asked him if he wanted to make some money, to which Jesse said, “Sure, what do I have to do?” The stranger then took him aside and explained that all he had to do was drive some packages from one town to another without getting pulled over by the police or getting into an accident. He would be given an address and a time to be there, pass on the packages and no questions asked. “How much?” asked Jesse. The stranger told him that it depends on the packages and the place, but it would be way more than he was able to make doing any other job.
$ $ $ $
Jesse decided to take the job and in the course of a year he was making tens of thousands of dollars. He didn’t know exactly what he was delivering, but he knew that the people that he delivered to were not nice people and that they were always nervous and paranoid. I guess he really didn’t want to know, all he cared about was that he was making his dreams come true without knowing how to do anything more than drive and follow a GPS. If he knew, and if he thought too much about it, he would maybe stop doing what he was doing and he didn’t want to do that, this money was too easy.
Meanwhile, Jesse’s mother was beginning to get suspicious. How was her son making all this money? He said it was an internet business that he was in partnership with a friend, but she didn’t buy it. Something didn’t smell right about it, and she was getting nervous for her son. She prayed to God every day, that He steer Jesse to the way he was supposed to go and to protect him from himself and anyone else who might hurt him. Jesse was a good boy at heart, just naïve and his priorities were in the wrong places.
More years go by, and Jesse is still at it and making more money all the time, but problems are starting to appear. Jesse has had some very nerve-racking deliveries with people that were very dangerous, situations that he didn’t think he would get himself out of. He has also started to notice cars that follow him and people who act different around him, like they are watching him. Jesse tells his boss about what he is experiencing and that he is having second thoughts about continuing in this line of work. The next thing Jesse knows, he is jacked up against a wall with a gun to his head being told that he no longer has any choice
in the matter and that he will do what he is told or else he or his mother may have an unfortunate accident.
Now Jesse is scared, no, he’s terrified. How can he get himself out of this mess? This little job that started out so great making all that money is now a fight for his life. You see, when the devil tells you he can give you all you want and more, that all you need to do is worship him, it comes with a steep price. Jesse had made a deal with the devil, and he thought because he didn’t ask questions, just did what he was told and took the money, he would be fine. He found out differently.
Jesse found out that when you make a deal with the devil the deck is always stacked against you. The devil doesn’t care about you, only that he can destroy you and steer you away from God. The devil loves nothing but himself, and even that is not really love, but some sick, warped version of the word. In all things the devil is a liar, a thief, and a murderer and he is to never be trusted. He is very good at telling half-truths that he perverts to his own crooked ways. He wants only to spoil, mar, and destroy as many lives as he can.
Remember how I told you that Jesse’s mother was concerned and was praying for him? Well, now we see how God works for those who seek Him out and pray to Him. Jesse was right when he felt he was being followed. The FBI was watching his every move and they made a visit to Jesse’s house to look around. They didn’t realize it, but Jesse lived with his mother, and she soon noticed these men watching the house. She wondered at first what she should do, whether she would get Jesse in trouble, then something told her, her son was already in trouble, and this was the help. Jesse’s mother walked right up to the unmarked FBI car and told them exactly who she was and who her son was and that she was scared for her son’s life.
As it turned out, this was the help that Jesse needed, he was in trouble, but if he worked with the agents to help them put away the bigger fish, then his sentence would be much lighter. Jesse did just that, and even though he would pay a hefty fine and spend some time in jail, all would work out for him in the end.
Although Jesse was upset with his mother at first, he soon saw that this was the only real way out without getting himself killed or spending the rest of his life in prison. Remember that Jesse didn’t know how to do anything, so while he was in prison, he qualified for all the help he could get. He ended up getting a degree while incarcerated and when he got out, he was able to get a job counseling young adults about their lives and helping them to achieve their dreams. Soon, Jesse learned that being wealthy was not always a financial dream, but true wealth that is given by God is anything that makes your life worth living. Jesse learned to give thanks to God each day for all the blessings that he had been given in his life, and that gratitude was a gift from God that pays out much better than money ever could. Jesse accepted Jesus into his heart, a new deal that cancels out the old deal with the devil, and a deal that will never prove false for God loves us all and wants the best for us. Jesse didn’t know it, but his name in Hebrew means, ‘Wealth,’ and even though he thought that meant money, he now knows that he is still rightly named because his wealth is in gratitude and his new love of God.
Without gratitude we become arrogant and self-centered. We start to believe that we achieve everything ourselves and that we no longer need God. We must always remember that all good things come from God and that when we express gratitude to Him, we begin to understand that we give thanks to the giver more than for the gift. Gratitude deepens our faith and allows us to see God and to feel His will for our lives. Gratitude allows us to feel joy and peace more readily because we are thankful for all that the Maker gives to us. We begin to understand that ‘stuff’ is not what life is about and that those with the most ‘stuff’ doesn’t always mean that they have a better life. Contentment then becomes joyful and peaceful because we know that God will give us what we need to succeed in life. Gratitude also guards us against envy. When we are thankful for what the Lord has done for us, then we also are content. You cannot be content and thankful and at the same time envious of what someone else has that you do not.
"Without gratitude we become arrogant and self-centered. We start to believe that we achieve everything ourselves and that we no longer need God," ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
Gratitude is also a way of witnessing to others the good that God has done for you in your life. Not by always praying in public so that others notice, showing off in your holiness, but by praying silently in public for the right reasons in giving thanks. Even in a group, when we pray in a public space, we don’t make a production of it so to draw attention to ourselves saying look at us aren’t we special, but to join together in a short vocal prayer of thanks to our Father with the right purposes, this is acceptable by God and if others notice and it inspires them, then what more powerful witness do you need?
Giving thanks also reminds us, just how much we really do have. Often humans will focus on what I call the “glass half empty,” overly worrying about what we don’t have instead of what we do. The more we thank God for what we have and what we do, the less we focus on what we thought we were missing. Besides, just because you don’t have something now doesn’t mean you never will, it is all part of a process and sometimes we just aren’t ready for certain things yet. By showing gratitude to God for our blessings, we begin to learn patience for His perfect timing and providence.
As we enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner this year with its delicious entrees, wonderful desserts, and the love of family and friends; we should stop and remember that all these things and more are given to each of us by God and that the gratitude that we show to Him through prayer, love, and how we live our lives is the real reason for the holiday. May God Bless you and yours on this Thanksgiving and always. Amen.