This is the time of year when millions of Americans place a special focus on thankfulness. Perhaps this is a favorite celebration for many because its focus has the potential to be so enriching for us emotionally and spiritually. Indeed, even secular psychologists acknowledge what the Bible also indicates, that pausing each day to think about what we are grateful for has a positive effect on our wellbeing.
1 Corinthians 4:7 is a powerful verse on thankfulness because it reveals that not only is thankfulness healthy, it is also the only sensible response to the good things in our lives.
“For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
What good thing do you have that God has not given you? James 1:17 tells us that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
If it is good, God gave it to you. Thankfulness, therefore, makes sense. Alternatively, boasting about having something that someone else gave you out of their own charity seems rather silly.
But what is particularly thought provoking about the context of our verse in 1 Corinthians 4, is that Paul is not actually talking about physical possessions. I encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 3:18 – 4:7 some time for context. You will find that the Corinthians were being tempted to boast about their own spiritual wisdom, and their own connections to well know spiritual leaders. They were perceiving themselves as exceptional Christians.
It was in response to this pride that the Corinthians were warned: “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
The implication is this: we are not only indebted to God for our possessions, but also for our knowledge of the truth, and our relationships with the “Pauls, Apollos’S and Cephas’s” that first taught us about Christ.
In fact, the Bible indicates that we are indebted to God for our very righteousness itself: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Also consider Romans 3:21-26 for more scriptural support.
What do we have, that was not given us by God?
Houses? Cars? Pantries full of food?
Relationships with other Christians?
We have nothing to boast about except the cross. (Galatians 6:14) And yet, we have more to be thankful for this season than anyone else.