It seems to me that none of us can be truly grateful for anything if we think we deserve it in the first place. This is the devastating effect of pride, thinking we deserve whatever it is we have, or desire to have, and lies at the very core of thanklessness. In fact, a careful reading of Romans 1:20-23 shows that thanklessness, itself the result of rejecting what we already know about God, precedes idolatry and is one of the engines that drives it. In short, thanklessness, or ingratitude, is refusing to accept our absolute dependency upon God and failing to acknowledge His blessings. In its fullest and final form it is the denial of His existence altogether followed by the worship of something, anything other than the Creator.
For many people these days, questions like why evil exists alongside God’s supposed existence and why there is so much suffering in the world lead to a rejection of a creator God and once He is eliminated only creation itself remains as the single thing that really is. Darwinism, naturalism, scientism, materialism, rationalism and atheism are the ‘god’s’ worthy of humanities allegiance, or so say the ‘wise’ and enlightened ones among us (Rom. 1:22), so they are set up as idols in governments, universities and, now, even churches. Our culture might pride itself as having left behind the barbaric and backward idol worship of primitive tribes in far away places but an intellectual or ideological idol is just as much an idol as a carving placed on a stump and just as ‘foolish’ (Rom. 1:21).
Given these idols of humanities own making its no wonder that thanklessness is the result. To be thankful would be tantamount to admitting we are not the masters of our destiny after all, that Someone other than ourselves and the creation we occupy is the real Source of all things and alone worthy of allegiance. I expect such an attitude from the unregenerate but when Christians become ungrateful something has gone radically wrong. Of all the people who inhabit this Creation, believers should be the most thankful of all. But Christians might still be tempted to think that God owes them something or that they deserve His sustaining power because of some intrinsic merit they have or because they are doing a series of good deeds.
The words ‘thankfulness, thankful and thanks” are translated from eucharistia (noun) and eucharisteo (verb) in the New Testament. You will notice that the root of these words is charis translated ‘grace’, a key idea in the Bible. So, giving thanks has to do with grace, with regard to both the worshipper and God.To be a thankful person is to be grace-filled (i.e. thankful) in response to God’s grace; it is a well-spoken word given freely back to God whose abundant grace is witnessed everywhere around us and in us, freely given, no strings attached.
But, it is easy to give lip service to thankfulness, grace before meals, an occasional ‘thank you’ when an unusual blessing occurs, but a life-permeating, continuous sense of thankfulness is a bit more difficult, one that fully embraces the truth that we owe our very existence to God, that we are ‘here’ in the first place, living, breathing and were it not for God nothing would exist at all.
So, the point of all this all this is that being thankful, truly thankful, is contingent upon humility which seems in short supply these days given the arrogance and pomposity of far too many Christian leaders and the many who flock to hear them. Humility, in turn, depends on knowing and admitting full well that without Him we can neither be nor do anything that really matters. To think otherwise is to have already fallen into idolatry.
 Note that the word eucharist (i.e. the Lord’s Supper or Communion in some churches) comes from these terms.
© W.G. Ryzek 2013