The last time I volunteered at the Butler Homeless Initiative (BHI) cold weather shelter, I was amazed at how thankful the guests were. It was pretty cold that day, but what the guests talked about was how thankful they were to have a warm place to be at and food to eat. Now, I’m pretty good at giving thanks. I send thank-you cards out regularly, and I say thank you quite often. I don’t usually miss an opportunity to say thanks. But, I’m not very good at being thankful. And I think I know why. I’m much more focused on what I want, what I need and what I don’t have than on what I do have.
Today, as I was reading John 12 in my Bible app., I noticed Judas, one of Jesus’ followers, wasn’t very thankful either. He was so unthankful that he criticized others when they were thankful. I think that’s pretty normal for unthankful people. Genuine thankfulness turns their stomach. After Jesus raised Mary’s brother from the dead in front of basically the whole town, there was a party. So the next time Jesus was in town, Mary made sure to thank Jesus for bringing her brother back to her. She did so by pouring out some very expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. This was an honest and heartfelt expression of her thankfulness, but Judas called her out. The apostle John goes so far as to say that the reason Judas was so mean was because he was a thief and frequently stole money from Jesus’ ministry. So he criticized Mary for wasting the perfume instead of selling it and giving the money “to God.”
Well, Judas wasn’t thankful for what he had. He believed he deserved more, and that’s why I think he was so grumpy and probably why he was a thief.
When you’re unthankful, you focus on what you don’t have, and that always makes you feel bad. But learning to be thankful is less painful because it forces you to focus on what is, not on what isn’t. I think that’s what the BHI guests were doing – focusing on what they had, warm food and a warm dry bed, instead of what they didn’t have.
Sometimes it’s hard to be thankful. But if you focus on what you have – not on what you don’t – you’ll feel much better, and so will those around you.