November 22, 2018

What Do You Have
That You Were Not Given?

It is a rhetorical question, which means it was not asked to get an answer, but to make a statement. The words were uttered by the Apostle Paul and are recorded in 1 Corinthians 4:7.  

Though it is a simple question it is loaded with enormously important, life-changing Christian theology. 

The question puts our human reality into proper perspective. Rightly understood, it should lead thoughtful Christians to ask questions of themselves. Like, for example, if what Paul asserts is true, what is my proper response? And what is my proper responsibility?

First, the Biblical theological basics, compressed into one paragraph...

God created the world we live in, including each person who lives in His world. God is the Sovereign Orchestrator over all of His creation. God has entrusted the stewardship of His earth to mankind. Every human is graced by God with a measure of ability, talent, opportunity, and material well being. The stewardship mandate applies to every individual with their own particular God-given graces. God is not an egalitarian. God hates pride.

Bearing all of that in mind, there are two proper responses to Paul's question. They are (or should be) obvious. The first response is utter humility. The second is a life of gratefulness to God for his goodness and his mercy. These are also the most fundamental of proper responsibilities (but they are not the final word on proper responsibilities). 

Now, there are of course lots of people in this world who either do not see, do not understand, or simply reject all of that. For the sake of simplicity, I'll call them secularists. 

Secularists reject the notion of God. They think the world and its reliable order came into being by random material happenstance over the course of millennia. They see their talents, and abilities, and successes in life as something that came about entirely by chance and their own hard work. If they express thankfulness, it isn't to a sovereign God. Maybe they say, "Thank luck!" I really don't know.

We live in a secular, politicized culture that focuses on inequality not humility and thankfulness. Anger and discontent from inequality feed ungrateful hearts. Leftist ideology, in particular, advances itself on anger and discontent. You will never find a Leftist that is a Bible-believing Christian. The two are totally incompatible.

In This Most Recent Fireside Chat Dennis Prager talks about the connection between gratitude and happiness. He makes the statement that, "The mother of happiness is gratitude, and the mother of goodness is gratitude." 

I think Dennis Prager is right. I would, however, substitute the word, "joy" for happiness. It's a small distinction, but I think happiness tends to be more situational. Happiness typically comes and goes based on circumstances. Joy is a much deeper well to draw from.

There's a whole lot more I could write on this subject. I could bring the 10th Commandment into the discussion—Thou shalt not covet. That command is directly related to thankfulness, which generates contentment. But I have said enough for now.

Here's wishing each of you a Joyous and Grateful Thanksgiving Day 2018!


  1. Amen, brother!

    Thanks, and blessings to you and yours!

    David Smith

  2. Herrick -

    Our sermon last Sunday at church was on this very question from Paul, and it has been percolating through my mind all this week. It is wonderful to see you touch on the same topic again here. It is, or should be, a deeply profound thing to think about. Interestingly, our pastor used the term Joy rather than Happiness, as he worked through it, and I agree completely that Joy fits this better as it is a much deeper emotion than temporary happiness.

    I am very happy to see you here blogging in this new spot, and am enjoying your written words again very much, including the long ones :)

    Wishing you and Marlene, and your family, a very blessed Thanksgiving. Thank you for all that you so generously share with your readers.


    1. Hi Sue,
      I appreciate your story and sentiments.
      And I think "percolating" is a fine word choice!
      "An idea or feeling that spreads gradually" is one definition.
      Paul's question has come to my mind often in this last year, and every time I think about it, it percolates deeper into my conscious and unconscious being. It leaves me feeling perpetually grateful. :-)
      Thank you for the comment.