Monday, March 24, 2014

Cultural Expression of Gratitude

I will be the first to admit that I have my own cultural context.  What I want to do here is not say that my cultural context is right and yours is wrong.  While that is the case, I don't want to say it.  But I want you to look at your cultural context and realize what it is and that others are different.  Don't make the mistake of not realizing that your thoughts and deeds are already contextualized.  You are already presenting your culture to the world.  If you want to change how that is presented, you must work at it.

So over the past few days, I have been in Denver Colorado.  I am staying with church friends here.  I find that the southerners I am acquinted with spend far more time being self effacing or trying to convince our hosts that they don't need to do things for us than they do simply saying "thank you."

Here's my cultural context:  I grew up poor.  I got all sorts of handouts and helps.  While this causes many in my situation to grow to be self sufficient and cynical, I had a different reaction.  I don't know if it is because I am a follower of Jesus or just something about me.  But it goes like
this:  If someone gives me something, I say "thank you."

If you are doing something for me, or giving me something, I am intelligent enough to know when you are doing it because you are expected to or if you are doing it because you want to.  I know when you want to serve me.  As followers of Jesus, we serve and submit to each other.  There are times when I want to serve you and there is no need to say "you don't need to do that."  I know I don't need to do that.  And truth be told, if I didn't want to, I wouldn't.  But I am doing that.  I don't need a response from you at all, but if you want to give me one, just do one simple thing.  Just say thank you.  In truth, my reward isn't coming from you, so by limiting my service, you are limiting my reward.

I am grateful for what everyone does for me.  And I don't need to be self effacing or try to be humble by informing you that you don't need to do that or you don't need to bother.  I know you don't, and you know it too.  But you're doing it.  I cannot truly know your motivations, so I'm just going to say "thank you."  And if I am really thankful, I will say thanks multiple times and in several ways.  Because I am thankful.  I am grateful for the blessing you are providing me, of your time, your efforts, your money, the fruit of the sweat of your brow, I am thankful.

So have a look at your cultural context and see what effects your words have.  What do you say when someone serves you?  Do you act like the Roman soldier who must stop the lowly Christ follower when he continues carrying his gear for the second mile?  "You don't need to do that!"  Or can you be grateful for the service your brother or sister in Christ is doing for you?  Their reward is in Heaven and they should be encouraged to continue doing good works.

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