“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)

For most of us, the desire to give back is rooted in a sense of gratitude for the gifts and opportunities we have, and a genuine desire to share those gifts. The ecclesial term for this is stewardship; that is, that we are joyfully grateful for what we have been given and strive to manage those resources for not only our good, but the good of others.

The notion that we are motivated to do good apparently isn’t the only benefit of gratitude. A quick Google search on the power of gratitude yields more than 100 million results. It’s a key tenet in every world religion, a hot topic for TED Talks and a best seller for Amazon. Scientists have studied the link between gratitude and diminished depression, anxiety and physical illness.   

The underlying notion of most of these is that the case for gratitude is made in the benefits to those who are grateful.  We should be grateful, because we will have more, be healthier, live longer. In other words, the more gratitude we have, the more we will have for which to be grateful.”   

But what about the joy of gratitude? What about the idea that those who are true stewards rejoice in the blessings that come to others as a result of their faithfulness.  What if the reality is, the more gratitude we have, the more we recognize that for which we should be grateful?  

These moments of joy happen in our daily lives – in hand-made gifts from children to home-cooked favorites on the dinner table.  The giver takes delight in the act of giving. But these moments also are created when we give philanthropically from a heart-led place.

Have you ever been filled with confidence after volunteering? Been moved to tears of joy by the report of a successful aid mission you supported? Slept soundly with the satisfaction that your hard work alleviated a struggle for someone in need?  This is the joy of gratitude.

Conversely, we can all recall interactions with others, or perhaps our own experiences, where gifts of time, talent and treasure were made more begrudgingly. Where the gift was made out of obligation or, worse, perceived pressure.  

It’s so important to be intentionally grateful. To pause and reflect on all that we have and all that we are. And then to ponder how we can best express that gratitude; to link that gratitude with a joyful desire to will the good of another.    I’d love to hear from you – what are you grateful for, and how do you express that gratitude?