Grace and Gratitude, Issue 106

March 21, 2017 by Presbyterian Foundation

“Grace” is more than a theological platitude, and “gratitude” is more than a casual “thank you.” Both “grace” and “gratitude” are verbal entrances to a mansion of meaning that can be explored but never owned. British philosopher Roger Scruton’s 2010 Gifford Lectures, published as The Face of God (Bloomsbury, 2012) includes a perspective on grace and gratitude that may display a room previously unexplored.

There is surely a great difference, which we all understand, between seeing something as just there (there for the taking) and seeing it as a gift. Only what is owned can be given, and gifts, therefore, come wrapped in the perspective of the giver, who has claimed them as ‘mine,’ and also relinquishes that claim for another’s sake. And the one who receives something as a gift receives it as a mark of the other’s concern for him; gratitude is not just normal – it is the recognition that the thing has really been given, and is not the first step in a bargain. Gifts involve conscious reflection on self and other, on rights and duties, on ownership and its transcendence. Hence they can only be offered I to I, and gifts are acts of acknowledgment between persons, in which each recognizes the freedom of the other.

Scruton’s insight may help us to think more deeply about the gifts we receive from God and about our response. It may also help us to think more deeply about ourselves as givers of gifts to others. It may even help us to ponder God’s love and the shape of our response of loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to ponder the shape of our loving neighbors as we love ourselves.

“The stewardship of all of life” is a common phrase, yet too often stewardship is reduced to an annual program, the annual program is reduced to the means to achieve an end, and the end is reduced to the church budget. “Gratitude for all of life” may be a way to broaden and deepen our understanding and our use of the gifts God has given us.

Reformation 500: Looking back – and looking ahead
The beginning of the Reformation is often pegged to Martin Luther’s publication of his 95 Theses in 1517. This short video – the first in a series from the Presbyterian Foundation – can be used in worship or classroom settings as a conversation starter about the anniversary and how the Reformation continues to impact us today.

Reformation 500 – Introduction to the 500th from Presbyterian Foundation on Vimeo.

Change your Church's Narrative on Giving

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