When we read the teachings of Jesus in Matthew chapters 5 through 7, we see how different they are from any other religious teaching in the world. Following those teachings would benefit all of the inhabitants of this planet. Jesus taught an essential attitude toward possessions and wealth. I have always enjoyed the phrase “attitude of gratitude.”
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. We seem to jump from one “gimmie festival” to another as we go through the holidays. The result of this is stress, worry, anxiety, and all of the physiological disorders that go with this self-induced pressure.
Many years ago, Dr. Stephen Post, a physician at Case Western Medical School, shared some data on how people benefit from an attitude of gratitude in Guideposts Magazine (November 2007, page 78):
Just 15 minutes a day focusing on things you’re thankful for will significantly increase your body’s natural antibodies.
Naturally grateful people are more focused mentally and measurably less vulnerable to clinical depression.
A grateful state of mind induces a physiological state called resonance that’s associated with healthier blood pressure and heart rate.
Caring for others is draining. But grateful caregivers are healthier and more capable than less grateful ones.
Recipients of donated organs who have the most grateful attitudes heal faster.
How do Christians develop a natural gratitude that affords them these benefits? In the Psalms, the Hebrew word for thanks occurs 31 times. Psalms is a worship book that concentrates on praise to God. Thanksgiving is a vital part of the praise and worship of God. In the New Testament, there are 50 occurrences of the word “thanks.” The Hebrew word “towdah” and the Greek word “eucharista” convey pure worship and are translated “thanks.” Giving, being thankful, feeling gratitude for our blessings is pure worship, and it culminates 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. An attitude of gratitude can help to clear that pollution.
One of the significant differences between Christianity and all other religious choices is that Christianity offers practical help for conquering worry.
Worry is very destructive. One study has shown that worry is a major cause of 50% of l patient hospitalization. Our wealth as a country has not produced less worry among us. Worry is one of the main ways we hurt those who love us. Worry can paralyze us, and it is contagious. Here are some principles in the teachings of Christ that help us with conquering worry:
2 Timothy 1:7- Worry and fear paralyze us. 1 Peter 5:7- Fear is a fault. God cares and wants us to rely on Him. (See Psalms 46:10.) John 14:27- Slow down and worry slips away – be still and know. Matthew 6:33- Make heaven your main goal, and worry becomes secondary.
Listen to the advice of Jesus for conquering worry:
“You cannot serve two masters, for you will hate the one and love the other… That is why I say to you to stop worrying about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink or wondering what you will wear. Isn’t life itself a greater gift than food or drink or clothes. Observe the wild birds, they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, but your heavenly father keeps on feeding them. Aren’t you more valuable than they? Which of you with all your worry can add a foot to his height?”
“And why are you anxious about clothing. Consider the lilies of the field, and how they grow. They don’t toil or spin and yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his spender was arrayed like they are. If God so beautifully dresses the wild grass which is green today but tomorrow is dry and thrown into the flames is He not more likely to clothe you? O how little we trust Him. So don’t worry and say what shall we eat or drink or wear. Your Father knows you need these things. Seek the kingdom of God first, and all these things will be added to you. So don’t fret about tomorrow for tomorrow will bring its own set of trouble.”
Matthew 6:24-34 (See Also Matthew 7:7-8)
We have a God who cares about our worries. Other belief systems just encourage bearing with whatever misfortune comes our way. Christianity offers real help and hope for conquering worry. The Church is a vehicle God created to give us a support system to deal with life. Read James 5:13-20. Remember – Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.
The “hot button topic” for a wide variety of people today is the issue of global warming. It is easy to understand why political figures want to use this issue to manipulate their followers, but followers of Jesus Christ seem to be getting swept up in the paranoia also. Jesus said, “Take care that no one misleads you. For many will come claiming my name and saying, ‘I am the Messiah’; and many will be misled by them. The time is coming when you will hear the noise of battle near at hand and the news of battles far away; see that you are not alarmed. Such things are bound to happen; but the end is still to come. For nation will make war upon nation, kingdom upon kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes in many places. With all these things the birth-pangs of the new age begin” (Matthew 24:5-8 NEB). We need to be informed, but global warming is not of eternal significance. Some people try to make a religion of climate change. We can get involved scientifically or politically if we so choose, but let us not get involved religiously.
So what are the facts? #1. Climate change is happening. Anyone can look at climate data worldwide and see the changes on a global scale. This is global–not local. We just had the warmest winter here in Michigan that I can remember, and I have lived here almost 60 years, but that is not directly due to global warming.
#2. This is not the first time. The Earth’s rocks show periods of warming and cooling. Natural processes cause changes in the Sun which affect the Earth. Geologic events such as volcanic eruptions can affect climate for long periods of time.
#3. Humans have altered the planet. This isn’t even worth commenting on, and what we have done has effects that are still unknown. God told us to “take care of the garden” (Genesis 2:15), and as custodians of the planet, we need to take care of it. Releasing greenhouse gasses indiscriminately would seem to be failing to do that.
#4. There are consequences to what we do and what we don’t do. As an example, cancer is mostly caused by human actions. The list of diseases human actions have caused or catalyzed is enormous. Not managing Earth’s resources well has cost us dearly in the past, and it will do so in the future.