No one taught me how to beg, I was self-taught. I aced the exam when it came to begging for the latest X-Wing Fighter or that second Big Mac at McDonalds. However, I never seemed to grasp the subject of gratitude. It was like the Trigonometry of manners. For some reason I needed a tutor to help me remember to say “Thank you” after that wonderful broccoli casserole or send a gushing note of gratitude after the Stetson cologne gift pack.

I think humans were never hard-wired with gratitude. It’s a learned subject. On this study in Colossians, Paul seems to put this church in detention to make sure they get gratitude down. Five times in this short four-chapter epistle he reminds them about saying thanks. He’s like the parent after his kid opens the dress socks in front of his aunt, “What do you say?”

• He prays they would live a lifestyle of “giving thanks” (1:12).
• A person who follows Christ is “abounding in thanksgiving” (2:7).
• Towards the end of his letter he tells them to be steadfast in prayer with “thanksgiving” (4:5).
• To cover all his bases, he tells “whatever you do…do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God…” (3:17).

But my favorite comes at the end of a long diatribe where Paul lists all these things we’re to do. It’s like a Christmas list of qualities he desires to see in Christians: “compassionate, kindness, meekness, patience…forgiving…love…peace…” and a ton more. But at the end he adds this small phrase, “And be thankful” (3:15). I know he’s writing this, but for some reason I picture him talking to a bunch of cut-up Christians on how to act and then he adds with a gruff voice, “and for Pete’s sake, be thankful!” I don’t know if these Colossians never sent him a thank you card for some Stetson cologne, but Paul wanted to convey this idea pretty clearly, “If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard at least five times in this letter, say ‘Thank you!’”

Perhaps we work so hard to get what we want we never quite pause to see what we’ve been given. We worry so much about what we don’t have that we miss what we have. Two weeks ago we talked about replacing “gimmie” prayers with “grateful” prayers. For one week we refrained from asking God for anything and simply thanked Him for all He has done and given us. I received a couple of responses. One woman in the church turned down a job she really wanted because it would hamper her family life. Rather than pray for another job, she tried something new:

I took your advice and only prayed prayers of thanks for the current job I have and that I know I have more than most, after I declined the job offer yesterday. Don’t you know 2 hours later they called me back with a better offer, and then affordable childcare came our way too! Our God is truly a GREAT and giving God.

Now, God isn’t obligated to do that for everyone, but it was a cool story. Another guy told me on the phone, “Man I had to really think about my prayers this week. I realized how programmed I was to simply ask God for stuff without ever thanking Him. When I was left with just saying thanks, I really had to take time and think about what I was saying.”

Mom, if you never heard it from me, thanks for those x-wing fighters.