As the Christmas season has come to an end I find today’s passage particularly timely. The Christmas decorations have been taken down and the gifts put away. The New Year has made its entrance and with it, our New Year’s resolutions.
Many of our New Year’s plans seem to be the same from year to year. We want to be more healthy, we want to be more disciplined, and we want to be more productive. And so we make plans, number our lists, we read books and set our alarms to wake us up early.
But how many of us have on our list of resolutions: be much more thankful for all that we have?
“Do not be deceived … ” In saying this, James teaches us that we have a tendency to buy into a lie about the good things in our lives. We believe they are ours by right (entitlement), or that they are ours by work (merit). But these first few words serve as a warning, a little rap on the knuckles reminding us that EVERY good thing in our lives is a gift from God.
Really what James is doing is reminding us of the goodness and overflowing generosity of God.
The generosity of God can be a difficult concept for many of us to grasp. If we were to give someone a gift or do something kind for someone, our human nature expects something in return. We may not think so, but if we don’t get a “thank you,” a smile, or have an enthusiastic recipient, we can get annoyed, feel disappointed, or think twice about doing something nice for that person again. We want some kind of acknowledgment, even if it is just a thumbs up.
But God, in his goodness and generosity, is not like us. His generosity is consistent and goes beyond anything we deserve. He does not sit on his throne waiting for our acknowledgment. He doesn’t feel like being good or generous one day and then changes his mind the next. Nor does his generosity depend on our response. As James puts it, there is “no variation or shadow due to change” in God.
God cannot change for the better for he is already perfect and being perfect he cannot change for the worse.
So what are all these good things that God showers on us? Friend, if it is in your life, then it is a gift to you from God.
Every good night’s sleep, every food that you enjoy, every safe drive in the car, the fresh air, every beat of your heart that keeps you alive, every good book, your home, your spouse, the opportunity to paint your nails or make some art, every opportunity to parent your child, every opportunity to repent, the Word of God … we could fill pages with all the good things in our lives.
These are truly good gifts. But his most generous and precious gift is Jesus Christ. He is the undeserved kindness of God toward us sinners. Jesus is a gift that cleanses the conscience, renews the mind, transforms the heart, and cheers our souls.
The Christian’s response to God’s generous goodness should be profound and continual thankfulness.
Sadly, our response to God’s good gifts sometimes looks like eye rolling, indifference, derision, and even discontent. When we make light of the gift, we are making light of the Giver. When we take something that God has not intended for us to have or sit in discontent wishing God had given us different gifts, we tell God that he is not good or generous. But joyful gratitude exalts our generous God.
Thanksgiving makes us sensitive to all the good things in our lives and helps to focus our eyes on the giver of these good things. Thankfulness causes us to treat those things with care and not take them for granted.
Let this be the year we practice noticing the good gifts God places in our day and may we respond with hearts full of gratitude.
Looking To Jesus,
Let’s Talk: Has God been good to you? Can you count the ways? How can you show gratitude and thankfulness today for each gift?