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The Wrong Kind of Thankfulness

And so here I am after a long time of not posting anything, trying now to get someone, anyone to read what I’ve written. Maybe you’ve checked once or twice and just thought to yourself - “Ha, I knew he wouldn’t keep it up.” Well, I’m back… for now! I make no guarantees for the future.

These thoughts arose as I was preparing for a message entitled “Time to Fill Your Thank Tank” to be given November 20, 2011 at Praise Tabernacle. In the sermon, I make reference to a story Jesus told about a Pharisee and tax collector who went up to the temple to pray. Since the sermon is about thanksgiving and being thankful, the words of the Pharisee’s prayer jumped off the page at me. Here are his words so you can see for yourself:
Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector.
Luke 18:12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ (NIV1984)

I’m not sure if you saw it, but let me point out a couple of things he says in verse 11.
  • He addresses God as the object of his thankfulness - Good place to start. I’ve been saying for years that to be really thankful, it’s best when thanksgiving is directed in the appropriate direction - most appropriate is God. However, this is where the positives for this religious leader comes to an end.
  • He thanks God that he is not like other men - I’ve heard and said the expression before “there for the grace of God, go I.” There’s nothing wrong with that when there is a sense of humility and realization that God is the one who has delivered you and brought you out of your sin. But really? He thanks God that he’s not like these sinful people? This guy clearly thought he was better than everyone else around him, “even this tax collector,” he says.

Let me just go on record at this point and say, this is the wrong kind of thankfulness! The story Jesus told was to teach those in the crowd who trusted in their own righteousness that repentance and humility gets God’s attention, not being thankful at how good you think you are in your own eyes. What this man failed to see was that he was exactly like those “other men” because his heart wasn’t right with God and all the outward expressions of religion don’t change that.

His most egregious error was that of actually attaching thankfulness (a quality we are reminded at least once a year to possess) to his supposed position with God; and then to thank God, as if somehow God had something to do with him being so prideful, stuck-up and horribly deceived. He was thankful alright, but he was the wrong kind of thankful.

Let’s be thankful to God that He has delivered us from sin, but stay away from the comparisons to others because that’s the wrong kind of thankfulness.