Everywhere you look this time of year, there are messages about gratitude and how to cultivate a deeper sense of happiness or contentment in life. And while all of those things are okay, I wonder if the real issue is something more basic. Something that has gotten buried deep underneath layers of the shallow offerings of this world. Something of a hidden message in the example that Jesus gave us.
Scripture boils everything down to just two precepts: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-38).
Did you hear that? The greatest commandments talk about God and others. That’s it. There’s no reminder to love ourselves. In fact, it tells us we love ourselves SO well that we are to lavish that same love on our neighbors.
On our parenting journey, we learned a phrase that has become central to our family’s vision. It’s called “the preciousness of others” or “other-centeredness”. It really comes from the idea in 1 Corinthians 13:5 where it says, “Love is not rude”. In Parenting from the Tree of Life, the Ezzos illustrate this principle in specific areas (please refer to the series for a much more in-depth teaching).
We should model and teach our children to have respect for:
- Peers and Siblings
- Property of others
What is the practical outpouring of this? What is the real secret to cultivating a thankful heart? There are many ways to do that, but before you start down a bullet-point list, start here: Don’t look inward, look outward. Don’t think of your own blessings, but think of ways to bless someone else. Jesus even told us not to worry about what we would eat or drink or what we would wear. But seek His Kingdom and righteousness FIRST and all those things would be given to us as well. (Matt. 6:33)
The next time you or someone in your family is feeling less than thankful, ask the question, “Who are you thinking of?” If the answer is not “others” then ask God to redirect the heart to Him, the author and reason for our gratitude. Ask Him to reveal ways to “love your neighbor as yourself”. Get back to the basics of focusing your heart and mind on the needs of others and a bad attitude will quickly become gratitude.
Julie Bame is wife to Rich, mom to three beautiful girls, a Contact Mom for Christian Family Heritage, and Worship Coordinator at North Clinton Church. Rich and Julie are passionate to see the Kingdom come in all of life, but especially so in marriages and families. They count it a great privilege to walk the journey of parenting with anyone who will join them.