There are many unique concepts involved in Christianity. When we read the teachings of Jesus in Matthew chapters 5 through 7, we see how different these teachings are from any other religious teaching in the world. It is these teachings that continuously attack the problems of mankind and benefit all of the inhabitants of this planet. An important positive attribute of Christianity that Jesus taught is the attitude towards possessions and wealth. I have always enjoyed the phrase “attitude of gratitude.” This is what we are taught in the Christian system, and unfortunately many churches have totally missed it. Jonathan Wells said it well: “We have never had so much, yet we have never had so little. Churches are marching down the road of commercialism in droves, marketing Christ as a therapeutic product to meet all the self-centered, felt needs of consumer-oriented Americans. The spirituality is nothing more than self-idolatry and is in opposition to Christianity.”

Americans have moved from an attitude of gratitude to an attitude of entitlement. There is no reason to give thanks for something if it was owed to us in the first place, and we seem to jump from one “gimmie festival” to another as we go through the various holidays. The result of this is stress, worry, anxiety, and all of the physiological disorders that go with this self-induced pressure. The hallmark of ownership is worry. The hallmark of an attitude of gratitude or stewardship is thanksgiving.

Dr. Stephen Post is a physician at Case Western Medical School. In Guideposts magazine (November 2007, page 78) Dr. Post shared some data on how people who are thankful for the things they have are benefitted by that attitude of gratitude. Here are some of his findings:

How do Christians develop a natural gratitude that affords them these benefits? There are some understandings that can lead us toward an attitude of gratitude. We would like to attempt to share a few of these with you.


God does not need us. If every human on the planet decided this minute that they would never give a penny to God’s work or to benefit their fellow man, God’s work would still get done. The Christian view of money and possessions is that God has blessed us with these things with the idea that we will use them in positive ways.

One of the best examples of this is in Luke 12:18-21 (NIV) where a rich man is presented by Jesus as having been blessed with a great crop. God blessed him and had a plan for the man to use the money that came from the crop to relieve the hunger and poverty all around him. Instead of doing that, this selfish man decides to tear down his barns and build bigger barns so he can store the goods for his own consumption and he then decides to take a long vacation saying “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” At this point God confronts him with the fact that his life is ending and God says, “Then who gets what you have prepared for yourself?”

In Matthew 19:20-26 a rich, young man comes to Jesus asking what he needs to do to be perfect. Jesus tells him to get rid of the things in his life which have consumed him at this point. The message is not that we have to become destitute, but that when things become the most important items in life we will not have the kind of joy God wants us to have. Jesus tells us in that passage that it is hard--like a camel trying to squeeze through the eye of a needle--but with God it can be done.

In Revelation 3:17-18 (NIV) we see Christ challenging the church at Laodicea whose wealth had given them an attitude of ownership. Jesus says “You say ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth… .’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” God’s plan for what He blessed us with is that we use it in such a way that brings us joy, fulfillment, contentment, and happiness and at the same time relieves the pain and suffering in the world. When our selfishness strangles that potential the result is misery, depression, stress, and all the negative things that go with selfishness.


When I was a child I can remember my parents arguing about how to handle the United Way campaign. Their employer put huge pressure on employees to give to United Way, and people were hounded to give. Your name was printed and you were assigned a social tag in conjunction with how much you gave. The top givers were called “Gold Givers” and were printed in the company magazine in a gold colored page with beautiful flowers around the edges. The next level was called “Silver Givers” and had their names on an impressive silver page with flowers. The rest of the staff were called “Patrons” and were on a very dull and lifeless page. My mother wanted to be on the gold page, and my father could care less if he was in the book at all, and resented the whole thing.

In the Bible in Acts 5:1-8 we see Ananias and Sapphira apparently motivated in the same way. They wanted to be identified as people who had given all they had in a most generous way, but they saved back some of the money for selfish reasons. Lying to the Holy Spirit in this way brought disastrous results. In Matthew 6:1-4 Jesus emphasized the importance of giving in a way that does not call attention to ourselves. If we understand that our possessions are only loaned to us by God to use in positive ways, that is not a difficult thing to do.


In the Psalms the Hebrew word for thanks occurs 31 times. This is a worship book and concentrates on praise to God--thanksgiving being a vital part of that praise. In the New Testament there are 50 occurrences of “thanks.” The Hebrew word towdah and the Greek word eucharista convey a pure worship and are translated thanks. Giving, being thankful, feeling gratitude for our blessings is pure worship and is culminated in service to others. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, NIV). Materialism is a serious source of pollution to our spiritual living.

--John N. Clayton

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