Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gratitude

Yesterday we had an interactive Bible study at seminary on Hosea 11. Time was short, but it had me wondering again about gratitude and worship.
In Hosea 11 God reminds Israel of how much he has done for them and is disappointed in their response. I've heard a few ideas about this.
One is that if we worship God as a sign of gratitude is that not sort of ignoble? Are we not simply showing 'cupboard love'? Shouldn't we declare that we will worship God even if he decrees that all should be destroyed (as we believe is his right)?
Second - isn't God being coercive by giving to us without our permission? We did not ask him to die for us. He has no right to then expect our gratitude. He gave and that was his risk.
There is truth in these ways of thinking. But I can't help feeling that to rebel against God because we didn't ask for his favour is pretty ignoble too. I also do think that the Bible calls for us to respond to him in gratitude.
But is our worship in response to what God has done or to who he is?
I guess the answer is both-and.

3 comments:

Thomas Scarborough said...

I heard it put like this: praise is what we give to God because of what He has done. Worship is what we give to God because of who He is. So in your terms, praise would be the ignoble part, worship the noble. The same in Afrikaans: loof en prys.

Dan said...

i used to think that it was wrong to worship God because of the things he has done for us. but 1 john 4:19 says "we love him because he first loved us". indeed, many of the psalms explicitly mention the good things God does for us and glorify God because of them.

"cupboard love"? i love my wife, and she is pretty. do i love her because she's pretty? well i'd like to think not! but that doesn't mean it's wrong to enjoy the fact that she is. if God is good we should enjoy it and worship him, and we don't need to torture ourselves with questions about motive.

i would also say that we are to worship God because of who he is, not in spite of it. God is a good God who loves us and is faithful and just and merciful, and we worship him for that. it's almost nonsensical to suggest that we should worship him if he weren't those things because he is those things and perfectly embodies them, and if he weren't those things then we would be talking about someone else entirely. it isn't like a wife saying to her husband "would you love me if i wasn't pretty?" so much as "would you love me if i wasn't me?"

as for being coercive, you were right when you said it is God's right to decree that we should all be destroyed. how much more is it God's right to decree that we should love him? yet he has gone further than that and given us gifts and done great things for us. are we then obligated to love him? not at all; it is the natural response of humans to love those who do good to them. look what Jesus said: "if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? are not even the tax collectors doing that?"

so it is a normal, God-given attribute of humanity that we are grateful and loving in response to kindness. even sinners are capable of that! God's complaint against the israelites in hosea 11 is that even this natural response is absent in their dealings with him. "but the more i called israel, the further they went from me." this is an extraordinary disregard for God, which God is right to call them out on. if i was kind to someone, i would expect some love in return. they wouldn't be *obligated* to provide it, but it should be naturally forthcoming and i would complain if it were not. how much more should God expect love in return for his kindness? our permission is not required for his gifts; God in his role as our Father - a similar role is occupied by our parents - has the right to give as he sees fit, to give us cause to love him, and to expect that we then do so. the word for the world in which God's gifts are completely absent is "hell" and we should be pretty grateful that we aren't in it!

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Dan. I like your comment, thank you. I think that much of post-apartheid, post-colonial thinking encourages Christians to consider God with suspicion rather than gratitude. I don't suppose that it is a principal tenet, but it is something that I come across quite a lot. I can see the logic. But I feel so much happier just being able to be grateful to God and love him freely!