Gratitude and Humility
October 1, 2009 - Members of the Masai tribe in West Africa understand that gratitude and humility go hand in hand. When they want to say “Thank you,” they touch their forehead down to the ground and say, literally, “My head is in the dirt.”
by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Another African tribe expresses gratitude in a similar way by saying, “I sit on the ground before you.” When someone wants to make his gratitude known, he goes and just sits quietly for a period of time in front of the hut of the person to whom he is grateful.
One of the fundamental qualities invariably found in a grateful person is humility. Gratitude is the overflow of a humble heart, just as surely as an ungrateful, complaining spirit flows out of a proud heart.
Proud people are wrapped up in themselves. They think much of themselves and little of others. If people or circumstances don’t please or suit them, they are prone to whine or become resentful. This month’s study reminds us that “God opposes the proud.” The concept is that He stiff-arms them, He keeps them at a distance, He “sets Himself in battle array” against them.
But when we choose to humble ourselves, as we are exhorted in James 4, God draws near to us and pours His grace into our lives. His Spirit does a cleansing, purifying work in our hearts; gives us victory over the noisy, demanding tyrant of self; and enables us to be thankful people, even in the midst of challenging circumstances.
Humble people are wrapped up in Christ. A humble person thinks much of God and others, and little—if at all—of himself. He recognizes that anything he has is better than he deserves. He does not feel anyone owes him anything. He does not feel entitled to have more, or for life to be easy, or for everyone to love him and treat him well. He is grateful for the least little kindness that is extended to him, knowing it is more than he deserves.
The biblical account of Ruth is one that I find particularly moving and instructive every time I read it. Ruth was a woman with a humble heart—a trait that is a companion virtue of gratitude. She didn’t claim her rights. She didn’t insist that Boaz provide her a living by letting her glean in his fields. And because she relinquished her demands for certain expectations, she was able to be genuinely thankful when she actually did receive the blessing of his generosity. Ruth 2:10 and 13 are not a show of false flattery, but the expressions of a heart operating out of humble gratitude.
Too many of us live with a chip on our shoulder, as if the world owes us something. “You ought to do this for me. You ought to serve me. You ought to meet my needs.” But the humble heart—the grateful heart—says, “I don’t deserve this, and it’s an amazing act of grace that you should minister to my needs.”
I once journaled the following prayer after meditating on Ruth’s story: “O God, please take me back to see where You found me and where I would be today apart from You. Please strip me of my proud, demanding ways and clothe me in meekness, humility and gratitude. Empty me of myself and fill me with the sweet, gracious nature of Jesus Christ.”
Ruth just went out to serve with a humble, thankful heart. And as a result, God made sure her needs were met. He’ll do the same for you.
Gratitude in the Scriptures
Read James 4:6-10.
- What is the source of grace, and where does God bestow it, according to verse 6?
- The truly humble will show humility in their attitudes and works. What will the humble do, according to verses 7 and 8?
- What happens when we humble ourselves before God? (See verse 10.)
Read Ruth 2:1-13 and appreciate this woman with a humble heart.
Gratitude in Action
- Make a list of anything you can recall whining about recently. Include things like frustrating people, annoying circumstances, wanting something you couldn’t get (such as an uninterrupted nap), or having something you wished you didn’t have (such as a cold). How does your complaining manifest a spirit of pride, entitlement and expectations?
- Sit quietly before the Lord for a time today and say, “I sit on the ground before You.” You may even want to literally bow your head down to the ground as you come into His presence, as an expression of your desire to humble yourself before Him. Confess any pride that has shown itself in complaining, irritability, anger or resentment, rather than giving of thanks. Humbly tell Him that you don’t deserve any of His favor, and give Him thanks for any specific recent blessings He brings to mind—including those situations you have complained about! (If a circumstance involves something sinful or evil, ask how He might want to use it in your life to make you more like Jesus.)
- Whom do you know who consistently exhibits a grateful spirit? What is it about them that makes them so remarkable? What can you learn from their example?
Nancy Leigh DeMoss is the author of 10 books, including “Lies Women Believe
and the Truth That Sets Them Free” and “Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to
Joy.” She is the teacher for two nationally-syndicated programs, Revive Our
Hearts and Seeking Him. Nancy’s burden is to call women to freedom, fullness
and fruitfulness in Christ and to see God ignite true revival in the hearts
of His people. For more information, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.