"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"
Church leaders are told not to expect gratitude. This may seem harsh, but in fact it is what sets them free. It is a truth for all of us, not just for people in authority.
If I expect gratitude I am automatically a beggar. Like a beggar I can't order or buy this thing I want; I can only sit and wait in hope that someone will give it to me. Like any beggar I could ask for it, but asking ruins this particular commodity. Gratitude that I have to ask for is not really gratitude.
Expect nothing and you won't be disappointed: that is what we have often been told. If you are taken for granted, that is a kind of compliment. We take most real things for granted: we don't thank the walls of our house for holding up the roof and keeping out the weather; we don't thank the trees or the rainclouds; we don't thank the well for the water: we turn our backs on it when we have satisfied our thirst.
Should children thank their parents? We are always saying they should, but that ‘should’ makes beggars of their parents. Let them learn to say the polite thing to strangers, but don't imagine that they should pay you with that kind of small change. If their gratitude isn’t spontaneous it is not gratitude at all.
There is wonderful freedom when we expect nothing. Because we expect nothing, we do what we do for the right motive: which is simply that it is the right thing to do. And when we finish doing it, we don't hang around like beggars waiting for the chance of a few coins. A rabbi said that the perfect kind of generosity was when the giver didn’t know who was receiving and the receiver didn’t know who was giving. Then the giver is not burdening the receiver with a debt of gratitude, and the receiver can see right through the giver (who is invisible) to God, the ultimate giver.
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