Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Rudyard Kipling was a great writer and poet who has brought enjoyment to many people especially children. He was also the master of short stories.
He enjoyed success while he was still alive and made a great deal of money. One day a newspaper reporter came to him and said: “Mr Kipling. I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over $100 per word.” “Really”, he replied with raised eyebrows, ”I certainly wasn’t aware of that”.
The $100 word
The reporter was fairly cynical. He reached down in his pocket and pulled out a $100 note and gave it to Kipling. “Here’s a $100 bill, Mr Kipling. Now, you give me one of your $100 words”. Kipling looked at the note for a moment, took it and folded it up and put it in his pocket and said one word, “Thanks”. I think that’s a brilliant response.
And Rudyard Kipling is right—the word ‘thanks’ is certainly a $100 word. In fact, it’s more like a $1-million word, that is not heard very much these days. People seem reluctant to say ‘thanks’ for anything! It’s about being grateful for what others do for us or say. It’s only a little word, but it means so much. Have you said thanks to someone today? Most parents teach their kids to be grateful and say ‘thanks’ whenever they need to.
Psychology professor Robert Emmons has studied gratitude in his field of positive psychology. His work in the past 30 years has led him to believe that gratitude plays a critical role in human happiness. He believes that grateful people experience increased levels of joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism. He has also found that a life of gratitude in some ways protects us from feelings of envy, bitterness, greed, and resentment. He believes that grateful people live longer and healthier lives. Wow—that’s really interesting, isn’t it?
The Bible’s teaching on gratitude
Many of the biblical writers would agree. The Bible is filled with Psalms, hymns, prayers, and letters of thanksgiving and gratitude to God for life, rescue, wisdom, food, and pretty much everything else human beings need to survive. Psalm 111 is a Psalm of thanksgiving from A to Z. In Hebrew it is an acrostic, where each line begins with the successive letters of the alphabet. It teaches that gratitude should be the basic orientation of our lives. “I will give thanks to God with my whole heart,” sings the psalmist, in worship with the whole congregation. And then the poet goes through a whole litany of things for which he or she is grateful and they all originate with God—God’s character, God’s actions, God’s promises.
This Psalm is a celebration of God’s activity in human life. It is a natural response from those who know that their lives derive from and depend upon God. There is no sense at all here that life is perfect and free from trouble. In fact, this Psalm was probably written at a time when the people of Israel did not have much to cheer about. They were back in their own land after years of living in exile, but they were living under the boot of the Persian Empire.
They knew things could be worse but it was pretty awful for them as it was. Then they go to worship and the worship leader calls them to give thanks to God with their whole hearts. They are reminded to give thanks and to live lives of gratitude, even when they may not feel like it.
(To be continued in How Often Do You Say Thanks? – Part 2)