Monday's MessianicTaste of Hidden Manna #57
Let Us Show Gratitude
Penny Candy, Grace, & Gratitude
When I was a little boy, I lived just .2 miles from our elementary school. Every morning I looked forward to walking to school with my brother Michael, and later with both him and my sister Mary. The school was located just around the corner from our house. However, exactly halfway there—right at the intersection of Pine and Maple streets—was a soda fountain shop and ministore called Nolan's Spa. Sometimes before school, I would stop into Nolan's to buy a little bag of penny candy (i.e., individual candies that originally cost a penny each). One winter morning, I ran into Nolan's to get a stash of penny candy to share with my friends at recess. When the owner totaled the cost of what I had picked out, I was shocked to find that it was more than the money I had in my pocket. As I was so young, I stood there frozen with embarrassment not knowing what to do. To my shock, a guy sitting at the counter slid a handful of change over to the owner and said, "No worries, I got you covered". The owner immediately said to me "What do you say"? I responded, "Thank you"! Thus, began my lifelong learning about grace and gratitude.
In the Dance of the Three 'Graces', Gratitude Is the Third Grace
In the first century world, the Roman philosopher, statesman, orator, and dramatist Seneca went out of his way to explain the interdependence and inseparability of the 'three graces'. He did so by portraying them as three young virgin sisters with smiling faces in loosely fitting transparent dresses who were holding hands in a wondrous circular dance. The first grace is gracious or beneficent intention, desire, or disposition. The second grace is the gift and/or action of graciousness or beneficence itself. The third grace is gratitude herself as the morally obligated appropriate response to such beneficent intention and gift or action. In his explanation of this portrayal, Seneca noted that the sisters are young because the memory of graces should never grow old. The sisters are virgins because true beneficence or grace is pure and untainted and considered holy by all. The sisters are smiling because those who give and receive beneficence or grace are marked by cheerfulness. The sisters are holding hands because the course of beneficence is from hand to hand, and the beauty of the whole chain is lost if any one of the graces fails. The sisters are wearing loosely fitting dresses because in true beneficence there should be no strict or binding conditions. Finally, the dresses are transparent because the splendor of beneficent or gracious desire, the beneficent gift or action itself, and the gracious lifestyle of gratitude was meant to be admired by all. See Seneca 'De Beneficiis'. A careful reading of Romans 1:21 clearly reveals that a life of gratitude is the only appropriate response to God's epistemic grace in allowing His invisible attributes to be wholly obvious and readily known through the created world.
Gratitude as a Third 'Grace' Long Before Seneca
If truth be known, gratitude was the morally obligated appropriate response to beneficence or 'grace' long before Seneca. Very early on in the history of God's people, YHWH revealed Himself as the only true God in covenantal relational terms that are best described as the attributes of God (see Exodus 34:6–7). Two of His most important attributes are 'chesed and emet', which are coupled together in this passage. While any translation of these two attributes is bound to be reductionist, we might understand them here at their core as covenant loyal lovingkindness and faithfulness. They are in fact the two attributes that are emphasized as being enfleshed in Yeshua the Messiah in Yochanan (John) 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the unique one-of-a-kind Son from the Father, full of chesed and emet" (i.e., full of covenant loyal lovingkindness and faithfulness). Thus, it must be emphasized that long before Seneca—in the Tanakh—God is shown to be characterized by the gracious INTENTION to faithfully demonstrate His chesed to His people (the first 'grace'), as well as the over the top gracious DEMONSTRATION of His chesed in GIFTS and ACTIONS (the second grace). So, the third grace—GRATITUDE—is then the consummate morally obligated and only appropriate gracious RESPONSE to such intention and gifts or actions!
Arguably, the most wondrous example of the exercise of the third grace of gratitude in response to God's over the top faithful demonstration of chesed is found in Psalm 136. I would urge you to pause and read that Psalm in its entirety right now. However, here are a few choice excerpts:
"Show gratitude to YHWH, for He is good, for His chesed (covenant loyal lovingkindness) endures forever". (Psalm 136:1)
"Show gratitude to the God of gods (supernatural members of God's Divine Council), for His chesed (covenant loyal lovingkindness) endures forever" (Psalm 136:2)
"Show gratitude to the Lord of Lords, for His chesed (covenant loyal lovingkindness) endures forever". (Psalm 136:3)
The Psalm then continues with an exemplary list of God's over the top faithful demonstrations of chesed in the form of gifts and actions, and closes with this wondrous conclusion: "Show gratitude to the God of heaven, for His chesed (covenant loyal lovingkindness) endures forever". (Psalm 136:26)
Gratitude as an Attitude and Way of Life According to the Scriptures
Finally, one of the most sublime passages that arguably states the greatest reason why the third grace of GRATITUDE is the consummate morally obligated and only appropriate RESPONSE to God's gracious intention and gifts or actions is Hebrews 12:26–28.
"At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, 'Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens'. Now this phrase 'once more' indicates the removal of what is shaken, that is, of created things, so that what is unshaken may remain. So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us show gratitude, and through this let us offer service pleasing to God in devotion and awe".
If we live in the reality of the foretaste of the coming fulltaste of the kingdom of God in Messiah, then let me repeat these profound words again: "So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us show gratitude, and through this let us offer service pleasing to God in devotion and awe". Gratitude is an attitude and way of life according to the Scriptures! Got Gratitude?!
In your service always, Henri Louis Goulet