Summary: Following Jesus’ ways brings life. Gratitude brings life.
Keys to Life Series July 11, 2004
You may remember the famous speech in the 1987 movie “Wall Street” by Michael Douglas playing Gordon Gekko
“The point is, ladies and gentleman, is that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind.“
In many ways Greed is the spirit of the age
Years ago a reporter asked John D. Rockefeller, the richest man of his day, “How many millions does it take to satisfy a man?” The answer was simple: “The next million.” Someone asked Andrew Carnegie, a man who had amassed an immense fortune in steel, “How much is enough?” To that question, Carnegie replied, “Just a little more.”
Arthur Agnos, Mayor of San Francisco asked the same question to the most powerful CEOs in his city just after a large corporation tried to close down a well loved local businessman because they could make a few more percentage points on the land he was leasing from them. He said “Here’s a man with a family to support, owner of his own franchise for 16 years, the business is thriving. Then a wealthy corporation announces it’s going to shut him down. He’s always made money for the company, yet some green analyst in headquarters figures on paper the company can make a few percentage points more. So let me ask you something: How much is enough?"
All conversation and movement came to a stop. Agnos, it seems, had uttered an unpardonable blasphemy. The bank executive came back with emotion: "Arthur, the very fact that you can ask that question terrifies me."
If Greed is the spirit of the age and a spirit that leads to death, the opposite spirit, that leads to life is the spirit of gratitude.
Gratitude Leads to Life
Don Postema writes in the book “Space for God;”
“Not much in our society stimulates us to such appreciation. Instead of suggesting that we give thanks, TV advertising encourages us to be greedy for more gifts. Periodicals tell us of the many things we could own but don’t. And our neighbors describe their latest purchases in detail. If we listen to all these voices, we won’t feel much gratitude. Instead we’ll start thinking that we have practically nothing and need to get more ... and more.
It’s that attitude that makes us hostile - that leads us to guard what we have from others. We need special locks on our doors; we need guns and even bombs to protect it all.
We are afraid to share our personal or national resources because much of what we hear says we don’t have enough. It looks past what we have to what we do not have and urges us to grab for more.
Greed grabs. Gratitude receives. That’s why gratitude often seems like a radical reaction to life. Gratitude takes nothing for granted. When you are truly grateful, you recognize not only the dinner someone prepared as a gift, but also become aware of the person who prepared it. You are cognizant of the concern it took for someone to call, to send a card, to give a compliment. You are aware of the love involved in a routine offer to do the dishes, fix a leaky faucet, take out the garbage. You may get a glimpse at the wonder of friends and family.
Gratitude brings us life because by being grateful, we embrace the gift that life is. If we take the gifts of God for granted or whine about them, we miss the gift and our life is diminished.
Postema writes a memory that may be too common to us all…
“I remember bringing a gift to a birthday party when I was a child. The birthday child met me at the door, grabbed the gift without a thank-you, ran into the room, and through it among all the other gifts.
Why do I still remember that incident? Because the giving of that gift is not complete after all these years! I never received the thank-you needed to close the circle and establish a mutual exchange.
… The exchange is like … a spiral in which the give gets thanked and so becomes the receiver, and the joy of giving and receiving rises higher and higher.
Ten Healed of Leprosy
11Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"