"And Be Ye Thankful"

The story is told of an eight-year-old boy, living in Africa in December, 1947, who wished for a new pair of white tennis shoes for Christmas. Young folks here in the United States might not be able to appreciate the fact that it’s difficult to play basketball on an outdoor court in the winter time barefoot. The little boy just knew he needed those tennis shoes. He didn’t wish for any fancy “Air Jordans” (they didn’t exist at the time) — just plain white tennis shoes.

He bided his time, watching the known hiding places in his house, until he finally caught a glimpse of a package just about the right size stuck way back in the closet. After what seemed like an eternity, Christmas finally arrived! In joyful and wild abandonment, he flung the ribbon to the side — ripped open the box — and there inside were his …. “green” army tennis shoes. “Green army tennis shoes,” he thought to himself — “You’ve got to be kidding.” He was crushed with a disappointment that only an eight-year-old child can experience. “You should be grateful for what you have,” his parents told him, for many a child in Africa had no shoes at all. But all he could see was what he didn’t have, and if he had to walk a mile and half barefoot in the driving snow to catch the school bus, he wasn’t going to wear no “green” army tennis shoes. Sometimes children, because they are children, don’t always understand that parents can only do the best they can with what they have “to do with.”

Ungrateful man is like the child in the above story, who wished for a special gift, and when he got something as degrading in his eyes as “green” army tennis shoes, all he could focus on was what he did not have, rather than on what he had (Hebrews 13:5; cf. Philippians 4:11). Like the child, we as Christians sometimes forget about the abundance of all our good blessings, and the Source from whence those blessings come (James 1:17). Israel quickly forgot the good provisions of God when they focused on their thirst, desire for meat, and immediate fears (Exodus 14-19; Numbers 11-14). When they were thirsty, all they could think about was water (Exodus 17:1-3). When they got tired of the manna, all they could remember was the flesh pots in Egypt. Their ingratitude stemmed from the focus of their attention on self (cf. Numbers 11:4-5; Numbers 11:18).

God tells us through His word, “and be ye thankful” (Colossians 3:15). He also tells us: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6 ). He reminds us of the abundance of His good gifts (Matthew 7:11), and assures us of His constant care (Matthew 6:25-32). It’s only when we forget His goodness and focus on what we don’t have, that we become ungrateful — struggling with our eight-year-old, childish self.

Mike Riley, Gospel Snippets


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