The Gospel of Thanks-living

Written By Robert Hansel

What is the absolutely unique characteristic that separates followers of the Christian way from all other people who look for guidance in self-help manuals, theories, philosophies, or bio feed-back techniques? Is there some distinctive element of Christianity that is the sole intellectual property of the Christian Church? I want to suggest to you that there is such an element and it is deceptively simple—easier to describe than to put into practice.

So many people today are driven by a self-imposed demand for self-improvement: be less fat, learn new skills, use more effective deodorants, be more organized and efficient, or develop increased productivity. All those aims and goals may be just fine, but none will "earn" anyone peace and happiness. You may choose to do any of those things but motive is everything.

Here's what I'm getting at: All other human efforts to infuse life with meaning and purpose start from the perspective of getting something we don't already have, whereas Christianity starts with the understanding that we have already received all there is to have. What remains is how to say thanks for that incredible gift. We believe that, in Christ, we have been offered forgiveness for all of our shortcomings and failures with the assurance of everlasting life with God.

Christians who truly understand and accept God's gifts of forgiveness and eternal life are aware that everything is changed—a new way has been initiated. Our human strivings are not aimed at getting but at giving —giving thanks through everything we are and do. I like to think of it as Thanks-living.

The great thing about gratitude is that you can't keep it to yourself. You have to find a way—a person—a strategy to express your thanks. Rather than seeking more for yourself, you live for others—which is exactly what God wants!

How will you let God know how thankful you are? That's really your only job—every day. Think about it. It makes all the difference in the world.

©2002 Robert Hansel

Adapted from an article originally published August 25, 2002 in THE CHRONICLE, the newsletter of Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, Tennessee