Updated on May 18, 2021
Doug Tales 18: Misplaced Gratitude?
Is there a connection between gratitude and the apostle Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts and the parts of the body of Christ? Doug Mendenhall ponders these scriptures in 1 Corinthians 12:15-21 on pages 28-33 in My Peace I Give Unto You (2001):
The traffic light turned green, and the car jerked forward as I accidentally popped the clutch. Dianne glanced at me as she lurched forward in the seat.
“Dear, what do you think of gratitude?” I asked her. “And I don’t mean gratitude for this beat up old car.”
“I don’t know. Too many people give way too little of it.” She hesitated.
“Well . . . it’s important. We should be grateful for all we’ve been given . . . I guess even this car.” She eyed me somewhat warily.
I saw confusion in her eyes. She was trying to figure out where I was going with this conversation. I held her gaze.
“Do you think there’s such a thing as misplaced gratitude?”
“DOUG!” Her shout sent my eyes back to the road. “That was a red light you went through! Keep your eyes on the road.”
Adrenaline surged through me. Instantly I glanced in the mirrors to be sure there were no flashing red lights. Dianne continued.
“Misplaced gratitude? Do you mean like being grateful for not getting caught doing something wrong?” The jab was unmistakable; she smiled.
“Well . . . yeah, I guess that too,” I smirked back at her, and went on. “But what I was thinking of was feeling gratitude for the bad things that happen to us.”
Dianne paused. The momentary silence was punctuated by the “blink – blink” of the car’s turn signal as I steered into the right hand lane.
“Well, many times people feel grateful for trials they go through only after they’ve had a chance to sit back and reflect on how their life was changed for the better. Is that what you mean?”
“Well . . . kind of, I guess. I know we should be grateful for trials, and it’s much easier once we look back on them. But what I was thinking was feeling grateful for malicious, evil things that may happen to us.”
“Do you mean you think we should feel grateful for the evil in our lives as well as the good?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“Why should we be grateful for something that comes from the devil or his angels? Nothing good can come from them, and if it isn’t good, why should we feel grateful for it? Doesn’t that move us further away from our Father in Heaven?” she replied.
I understood her argument, but it didn’t convince me. There was something in it that didn’t feel right, something that bothered me. What?
“Yeah . . . I guess so. But there’s something that’s been nagging at me and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I thought it had to do with gratitude, but . . . I don’t know . . . .”
I went silent. The tangle of my thoughts was worse than the tangle of the roads in front of me….
[A while later,] we pulled into the driveway and I turned off the car. My nagging thoughts on gratitude returned and followed me into the house.
Later that evening…I was alone in the house. Again I turned to my books. For some reason my attention was drawn to the New Testament, in particular, First Corinthians. Thumbing through, I stopped at the 12th chapter and read Paul’s analogy of the body of Christ. I read specifically with gratitude in mind.
“If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? … If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? … And if they were all one member, where were the body? … And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”
A pattern began to emerge from my tangled thoughts: If every man, woman and child that ever was, or ever will be, is a part of the body of Christ in some way that I can’t yet understand, then all things we do must be according to His will or plan. Christ is the head of the body, and the body follows the desire and commands of the Head.
Then if everything is done according to His will or His plan—for the benefit of the entire body—wouldn’t even the malicious and evil things people do be according to His will or plan—for some benefit I can’t comprehend? In other words, though I don’t understand the workings of the foot because I am a hand, the foot is part of the body, necessary and directed by the head even as the hand is.
Then, for the hand not to be grateful for the actions of the foot—whether those actions are good, bad or evil—would be like the hand telling the foot that it isn’t necessary, or it is bad for the body. That it should be cut off to improve the body.
Thus, the hand has set itself up as the head, by judging the foot. Neither knows the purpose of the other. So how can one judge the usefulness of the other to the body, regardless of whether it appears good, bad or evil?
Therefore, by being grateful for the evil and the good, we accept all that He has here prepared for us and recognize that His hand is in all things, and acknowledge that all things serve a purpose, in Him, which we cannot now understand.
And through this acceptance of Him and His will in all things, we open the door to true forgiveness and love.
Through gratitude, we then forgive. Not because we want to better ourselves or relieve our pain, but because we know that it is all according to His will, and that the wrong done to us serves a purpose in Him, even when we fail to comprehend it at the time.
And because we can now truly forgive all, we can truly love all, for all comes from Him.
And as we learn to truly forgive and love, then will we receive His peace, for we will understand His ways.
I knew in an instant that I had been given something of great worth. I also knew that not everyone would understand or benefit from it. His love filled my soul as I pondered again and again these thoughts. Gratitude should be offered to Him for all things, for He is in all things.
That night I slept peacefully and soundly for the first time in weeks.