Why is it that most children don’t seem to be born with a grateful gene in their DNA? Trying to teach children the importance of using words like ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ can be an absolute nightmare! In fact, sometimes it feels as if flying to Mars is more likely to happen that one of the kids using the ‘magic words’ of Please and Thank You.

We could take the dim view of this frustrating phase in the lives of our youngsters and simply give up or we could choose to push on and teach our kids the lost art of being grateful.

Admittedly, there were a number of days where I shook my head in dismay, but to be honest, I am glad we persevered. You see, I feel that if we teach our kids simple manners it will change the way they see the world around them and hopefully embed in their hearts an attitude of thankfulness.

King Lear once remarked, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.” I believe he was right. The stinging pain from a son or daughter who constantly receives without remembering to say ‘Thank you’ can release a slow poison of disillusionment and frustration in the heart of any tired parent.

However, that could be just the beginning. If allowed to continue without the right ‘checking’, the spirit of un-gratefulness can impact upon the child’s friendships with peers, relationships with significant adults and ultimately lead them down a path of isolation.

If you think that this is an over-exaggeration then think about the last time you were in the company of someone who was arrogant, demanding, ungrateful, and entitled. How did that go for you? My guess is that you hated every minute of the experience and you will definitely be moving them way down your guest list – perhaps even somewhere down towards the bottom of the list!

In Luke 17:11-19 Jesus had an interesting encounter with ten lepers, nine of whom seemed to be totally ungrateful for what he did for them. There was only one guy who bothered to come back and say to Jesus, “thanks for giving me my life back!”

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

We are not sure how far the lepers had to go to report back to the Priests, but this is beside the point. The main issue is that only 1 out of the 10 bothered to thank Jesus. Even if they had to walk a few kilometers, they still could have turned around and said thanks.

The point is that many times people ask God for favours and yet we seldom remember to say, Thank you Lord.  

In my experience gratitude requires a certain amount of effort.

Sending that email, making the phone call or even popping around to say ‘Thank You’, all take time, but in the end, the gesture goes a long way. If the truth be told, receiving a Thank You can even inspire more generosity in the heart of the initial giver. I am not sure why it works like that, but it just does.

So, here is a question for us today: How often do we say thank you to God? Only when we get something from God or perhaps every time we come to worship. Carefully read the words of this passage:

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
 go into his courts with praise.
 Give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4)

If you read this same passage in the Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase you will note how he interprets this verse to read: “Enter with the password: “Thank you!” Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank him. Worship him.”

I love this thought. I think I am going to tell my friends and family that we have new password in our home and church. If you want to enter into either space you have to say the password out loud – THANK YOU!

In trying to teach my children the lost art of gratitude I am also helping them learn to see the world from another perspective.

If they can appreciate all they have and the things they are given, then they can hopefully understand how blessed we are. In this way, we can have the conversation about how other children lack even the basic things we take for granted.

It may seem like a long, long process, but I want my kids to learn this lost art and to be grateful for their abundance. It would be wonderful if we could instil within all our hearts these challenging words from Paul – “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  In this way, we could be grateful despite what happens in the world around us.

Lastly, can I leave us with this challenge?

Think about someone who has done something for you recently and send a clear message to them that you are deeply grateful. You will be surprised how far a ‘Thank You’ can go!