Whether an atheist denying the existence of God, or a believer overlooking the blessings of God, the contradiction is obvious, even as it is unabashedly ignored. To overlook the good in our lives is to state that there is no one to thank. To grumble is to emphatically declare that there is someone to hold responsible. But which will it be?
The four lines of what is commonly known as the Doxology have been sung for more than three hundred years.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
It has been said that the Doxology, which literally means words of glory, has done more to teach the doctrine of the Trinity than all the theological books ever written. To this day, when I sing those powerful lines, I recall the colorful lesson of my first grade Sunday school teacher. With something like cookie dough and bologna magically falling down on the table before us, she read us the story of a God who made the heavens rain bread and quail so that his grumbling people might live and know that He is God. I was impressed. And when we sung the Doxology at the end of the service, I thought it immensely helpful that I knew a little more of what it means when we sing that God is a God from whom all blessings flow.
Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. once said pointedly, "It must be an odd feeling to be thankful to nobody in particular." He was commenting on the odd phenomenon of finding, especially around Thanksgiving time, people thankful "in general." To be thankful "in general" is very strange, he concluded. "It's a little like being married in general."
Of course, his words are not dismissing the thought that it is good to give thanks in all circumstances. Rather, Plantinga raises an important philosophical question. Can one be thankful in general, thankful for the blessings that flow, without acknowledging from where or from whom they might be flowing?
In what remains a revealing look at human nature, Moses describes life after Egypt. Rescued Israel was a grumbling people sick of manna, wailing for meat, even longing to go back to the land God had mightily delivered them from. And in the midst of revealing God's promise for meat, Moses says to them, "You have rejected the Lord, who is among you" (Numbers 11:20).
How revealing these words are to our grumbling prone lips. If being thankful is by nature being aware and appreciative of things beyond ourselves, complaining is refusing to see anything but ourselves. It is refusing to see the one who is among us. Moreover, it is an expression that serves only to affirm our own expectations, whether they are based on faulty visions of reality or not. Certainly the Israelites didn't want to go back into captivity, but in their grumbling even slavery began to look inviting.
Choosing not to see the glory of God, choosing not to raise our eyes to God from whom all blessings flow is in essence to be content in blindness. It is choosing not to wholly consider reality, choosing to overlook the sovereign God at work beyond us, in all things, in all circumstances.
In one of his own doxologies found in Romans 11, the apostle Paul declares the glory of God and lifts our eyes to the one worthy of our praise: "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen" (Romans 11:33-36).
Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken and living before one who is worthy of our praise, let us be thankful. Let us worship God with reverence and awe, always remembering with praise and wonder the one from whom all blessings flow.
Jill Carattini is senior associate writer at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
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