Thank you – it’s only two words, two syllables, eight letters, but it’s a powerful phrase. I remember writing an endless stream of thank you notes after holidays and graduations, my fingers cramping a few notes in, and my hand covered in smeared ink (the struggle of being left-handed is very, very real). My mother sent me to enough etiquette classes to know that it was the right thing to do, though. Showing gratitude is important. It affirms people, builds them up, and lets them know that what they’ve done – and even more so, who they are – is important to you.
Sometimes, especially in ministry, we don’t get to hear the thanks we think we deserve, though.
We have, on more than one occasion, had MLab teams serve in big ways, and yet, they don’t hear any words of appreciation from those they’ve helped.
So what do you do when you’ve poured yourselves out, gone the extra mile, and really exemplified Christ in the way you’ve served, and yet you don’t get a single “thank you”? Even worse, what do you do when you’re bombarded with words of complaint instead of affirmation? It can be especially tricky to navigate these kinds of situations, especially if you’re leading a team of students.
This blog post popped up in my Facebook newsfeed last week, and I’ve been mulling over the message for days now, especially this poignant bit: “The Bible is clear. God doesn’t want my good deeds to be aimed at gaining the applause of people. He wants me to have a pure heart and motives undergirded by a desire to live a life pleasing to Him. Even if no one else is watching.”
You could just as easily revise that last sentence to read, “Even if no one says, ‘Thanks.’”
It seems that it boils down to James 2: we serve, we work, we do good deeds not to receive praise or earn our way to salvation, but instead we do them as a way to show that we’ve been changed by the gospel.
Our faith is exemplified and stretched and made stronger as we serve the Lord by serving those around us. When you and your students serve without any sort of praise or gratitude, how are you going to respond? Are you going to stop serving and doing and sharing? Or are you going to use it as a teaching moment and show your team that it’s not about the “thank you” or the Instagram picture tagged #grateful?
Whether the thank you card is in the mail or not, we do because we are called to do. We share because we are called to share. We love because we are called to love.