It would not be difficult to argue that Christianity, upon which Western Culture is founded, is a religion of gratitude. Its founder, Jesus Christ, summarized the moral law that man is to keep as loving God and others more than himself. Christ’s teaching was based on the premise that all we have we received from His Father in heaven.
“We give Thee but Thine own,
Whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone,
A trust, O Lord, from Thee.”
-William How, 1864
The Apostle Paul asks each of us, “what do you have that you did not receive?” At first blush, some of us might want to answer Paul’s question by saying, “oh, a whole lot of things.” But let’s look at this question more closely.
What do you have, first off? A list of such “possessions” apart from the obvious material possessions might include: talent, intelligence, money, status, power, our looks/body, and time. And what on that list did you not receive from some source? We all readily admit that talent is something “God put in” not something we can gain for ourselves. Intelligence as well is inherited and innate, not something we can really change. While we do to some extent gain or lose money, status, and power, we also have to admit that if others don’t pay, or “give” us such, then we don’t really have money, status, or power. Everyone is “given” the looks/body they have and the same amount of time. So Paul’s question is rather rhetorical in the end. What do we have that we have not been given? Nothing.
So that leads the grateful person to several questions:
A. If I have been given all that I have, what should I do with it?
B. If everything is a gift, do I believe I have been given enough?
C. Is what I have been given for me to hold on to, or to pass along?
Gratitude strikes right at the heart of human purpose. Why are we here? Are we to do only for ourselves, or for others? Given all that I have, how should I live with these gifts? Gratitude makes us look out from ourselves to others.