by: BETH HALL
As a child I was required to write “thank-you” notes for all Christmas and birthday gifts. The only gifts exempted were those from my parents and Santa. I even had to write notes to my older brothers who were in college by the time I could write. (Between you and me, I thought this was a little excessive. But I digress.) Until the note was written to my mother’s satisfaction, I was not permitted to play with or use the gift.
Now these notes never reached the level of grand prose, but my mother did require more eloquence as I became older. The crayoned, “Thank you, Grandma,” was not sufficient by the second grade. When I struggled with what to say, my mother suggested telling the giver something I liked about the gift. When I was older, she suggested I think about why the givers had chosen the particular items for me, and thank them specifically for their thoughtfulness and effort.
I’m glad my mother taught me this lesson in expressing gratitude. As a child, it helped me appreciate each gift I received. As I grew into adulthood, this appreciation helped me to become increasingly aware of my indebtedness. Indebtedness to my parents, my family, my home church but most of all, to God and to my Savior, Jesus Christ.
This sense of indebtedness has helped me to understand true humility. How can I help but be humbled when I think about what has been sacrificed on my behalf? Humility comes with understanding there is a big “God” and a very little “me.” And yet despite my smallness, in fact because of my smallness, the supreme sacrifice was made for me: Jesus humbled Himself, left heaven and died on the cross for me. He paid the debt I could never pay. How can I cling to my arrogance knowing that?
We live in an entitlement, rights-oriented world where humility is seldom seen and never held up as an example. Who does our culture worship? The arrogant, the greedy, the self-promoting. Our world values self above all else. How familiar Romans 1:29-31 (NIV) sounds: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.”
Is it any wonder so many have missed the greatest gift from the greatest gift-giver ever? As Christians we know we won’t conform to the world’s standards and that can make life difficult. However, Christ has assured us in John 16:33 (NIV) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” What a promise. What a gift.