Last Tuesday I surprised my son after school with a man date to the theaters – it was time we watched Batman vs Superman. Since his routine is to grab a bite to eat as soon as school gets out, we swung by McDonald’s for a quick bite. While standing in line we started talking about the Monopoly game pieces they give out, and AJ asked, “If you won a million dollars from the game, how much would you actually receive?”
I told him that I had read a story of instant millionaires, and that most of them were shocked that they only received about 35-40%, between $600-$650,000/per million after taxes. AJ was appalled. He said, “You’d think that a business like McDonald’s could afford to give someone a million dollars after taxes. I mean, they make billions a year, so a million really isn’t that much!” My son was complaining about a million bucks.
Naturally, I informed him that if he won the instant cash on his game piece, I would happily relieve him from the burden of disgust that he’d bear for only receiving $650,000 for a burger purchase he didn’t even make! I can almost hear his disdain now: “I’m not taking this $650,000 prize that my dad purchased for $4.48. If your greedy multi-billion dollar corporation won’t pay me a full million George Washington’s...I’m not interested!”
While AJ was in his righteous indignation toward McDonald’s, I asked him this: why are you mad a McDonald’s for giving away $1,000,000? They aren’t the ones taking out $400,000, and whether or not you receive the full million, it cost them the full million bucks to do the give-a-way! He pondered that for a moment.
I wonder how many other people feel the same way AJ does about McDonald’s $1,000,000 prize? I bet there are quite a few and I think the reason is simple: we are becoming a thankless culture of entitlement. And when I take an honest look at my life, I can see areas where the culture of thanklessness has crept into my life, too.
AJ pondered the little question I asked him then he laughed and said, “That’s a good point. They are still giving me $650,000 for the five bucks I paid for a burger.” Of which I quickly reminded him that he didn’t even pay the $5 – truly his would have been a free $650,000 prize!
Sounds silly doesn’t it? I mean, can you imagine actually becoming upset at a fast food joint for only giving you $650,000 for eating at their restaurant? What obligation do they have to give you anything at all? What duty of theirs is it to offer any kind of prize, let alone a million dollar jackpot that you do nothing to earn. In fact, like all games of this nature in the U.S., you don’t even have to pay to participate–you can write-in to receive game pieces in the mail, and a chance to win prizes for the cost of a postage stamp.
This year’s presidential race seems to be focused on our nation’s lack of gratitude and our demand for more. More help. More money. More schooling. More freedom. More opportunity. More tolerance. More government. More...more...more...
It’s crazy how easy it is to demand more, to feel some sort of entitlement for status/prizes/grades etc... that we’ve done nothing to deserve. Instead of gratitude for the kindness, generosity and hard work of others, we demand more; and often, more than we’d demand of ourselves if the tables were turned.
I’m reminded of a parable Jesus once told about a servant who had a massive debt. He went to his wealthy master and pleaded for debt forgiveness, acknowledging his deficit and truthfully stating the obvious–he would never live long enough to repay the debt he owed. In pity, the master forgave the debt and sent the servant home.
You’d expect a little gratitude wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong.
The servant leaves his master’s house and on the way home finds a fellow servant who owes him a couple of bucks. Remember, he had just been forgiven millions of dollars in debt, and what does he do? He demands full payment of what’s owed him and threatens legal punishment if the guy doesn’t hand over the dough. Word gets back to the wealthy master and he isn’t pleased at all. He points out the absurdity of the moment–a man forgiven millions won’t forgive a man who owes him $5!–and then punishes the unforgiving servant as severely as possible. His lack of gratitude became his downfall.
Thankfulness is a conscious choice. It’s a choice to respond to circumstances, good and bad, with an attitude of gratitude regardless of what we get out of the deal. My son AJ could have moped at McD’s, sulking about the corporation’s perceived greed and missed out on the fact he just received a free meal, had a chance (free!) to win some cash (of which he did not) and then we laughed ourselves silly watching a video on my iPhone. I’m glad he chose thankfulness.
In Colossians 3:15-17, in the midst of three major commands for believers, Paul sprinkles in three commands for thankfulness. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are told, “...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In Romans 1:21 part of the condemnation of sinners is their lack of thankfulness toward God. In 2 Corinthians 9 we are told of the thankfulness of others because of our generosity. Multiple times Jesus prayed for a meal, “giving thanks” for the food. In almost everyone of Paul’s letters he begins with some aspect of thankfulness for the people to whom he is writing.
The point is clear: we are to be a thankful people!
Here’s a challenge for you (for me, too!) today. The next time you feel angered by some poor service, frustrated by someone’s lack of [insert action here], a rude comment, or you see some disparity that makes you cry out, “Unfair!”–see if you can find something in that situation for which you can be thankful.
I’ve started a new, self-guided journal, that I’m using for the next 13-weeks. At the start and end of each day I’m to list three things for which I’m thankful. The belief is that starting and ending the day with gratitude is a huge part of finding success in life. It has been an awesome practice, and one that I plan to continue after I’m done using this journal. Is it a practice you need to start?
The Overboard Life is a thankful life. Ultimately, everything we have is from the Lord, and He has forgiven us the greatest debt of all–the debt of our sins that cost Him, His life. When we complain, whine, scream and throw fits over what we don’t have, we are very much like the servant in the parable Jesus told, and you can’t walk on water living with ingratitude.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!