To give a fish or teach to fish – a lesson in gratitude

I am going to have to be a little vague and change some of the details of this blog.  Recently Barbie and I felt led of the Lord to join with others to assist a young new family financially as they could not afford a place to stay while they were finishing some academic studies.  By all initial appearances they were Christians and devoted to the Lord.  The groups’ help came in the form of housing assistance totaling well over $12,000 during that season.

As an integral part of the agreement, and in order to hopefully encourage a sense of this not being a handout, the couple was asked to assist with some things that would indirectly defray a portion of the cost.

Right out of the gate they refused to keep their part of the agreement.  When asked as to why, they gave reasons which were later found out to be out-and-out lies.  Once it was found out they were lying, they were confronted and it was communicated that they were going to have to start paying a larger portion of their housing cost in order to make up for their not honoring their word.  A 3rd party Christian was invited to help mediate this conversation.  Not only did they refuse any compromise, they in fact started threatening all of us with legal action and restraining orders going so far as to make harassing threats and phone calls even to the extent of affecting Barbie’s and my new shelter business causing us significant stress and expense.

Over this season the group also assisted with babysitting, running them on errands, paying some utilities and taking care of many housing related issues that would have normally fallen under their role as being responsible tenants.  Attempts were made to help them understand about things like the cost of utilities and how cleaning fees work.  Advice was rejected at almost every corner even when offered by the 3rd party mediator or others in the group who had been owning or renting their places for longer than this couple had been alive.  In the end our efforts were met with what can only be described as demonic attacks on the group as well as others who “just happened to be in their way”.

The above story might seem exaggerated, but I can assure you the people who were brought in as 3rd party mediator and others in the group who were directly affected by their actions can attest that I have only scratched the surface in describing the trying ordeal this was for all of us.

One cannot look up chapter and verse which says “being grateful is a key to health and happiness”.  But there are stories of reward and punishment throughout scripture making a strong case for gratitude being vital for physical and spiritual health.  In Romans 1:21 the end result of those who did not express thanks to God was that their “misguided minds were plunged into darkness”.  Philippians 4:6 indicates that everything we do should be accompanied with gratitude.

First of all I want to say that Barbie and I were able, for the most part, to lean on the Lord for encouragement.  This was an extreme test which we did not always pass with flying colors.  We got mad, we wanted to retaliate and we wanted retribution.  But as best as we knew, we had joined in on this effort out of obedience to the Lord and this fact enabled us to fight through and (somewhat reluctantly) leave them in the Lord’s hands.

I believe we all learned an important lesson on gratitude as we watched the degradation of attitude in this couple.  I have only experiential data for this conclusion, but I believe it to be TRUTH.  When we as individuals or a people are offered an unmerited gift or act of kindness we have 2 options in response.  The first, and of course most desirable, is to respond with verbal, attitudinal and physical expressions of thankfulness.  The other pathway is the one described in Romans 1:21 where a lack of thankfulness plunges hearts and minds into darkness.  The later is an unfortunately, but accurately, a description of what we witnessed from this couple.  Their lack of showing appreciation for our “giving them a fish” followed by their vehemence after trying to “teach them to fish” (attempts to hold them accountable to their part of the deal) I believe were glaring examples of what accompanies a spirit of ingratitude.  I suspect the rational goes something like this.  Someone needs help (as we all do from time to time) and someone is there to offer the assistance and you are initially glad.  But if kindness is not followed by acts or attitudes of gratefulness then guilt starts to set in.  There are only 2 things that will assuage the guilt.  One is to become grateful.  The only other way to “help you feel good about yourself” is to paint the other parties out to be the villains or guilty party.  This in no way helps lift the spirit of the ungrateful person, but rather is an ultimately empty attempt to be able to point at others who are “more evil” than yourself.  Sort of like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.  This pathway will always end in darkness and depression.

Interestingly enough, this is the same chain of thoughts which occurs in those who reject Christ and His unmerited offer of the gift of life.  In rejecting Jesus’ sacrifice, they become bitter against God and the church.  Bottom line, I encourage myself (who needs it more than most) and everyone else reading this to become a grateful people.  I believe it will play a most important role in your spiritual and physical health.

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