In II Corinthians 4 Paul is explaining to a group of people who he knows well and loves his heart for the gospel, his ministry and for them. He walks them through why he does what he does and what he has gone through up until then to live his life of ministry. Then, in verse 15 he says “For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” The great thing about this verse, and the thing that I find so powerful is the relationship between the words “grace” and “giving of thanks”. Those words/ phrases are “charis” and “eucharistian” respectively. Notice how the word for “giving thanks” or perhaps more accurately “gratitude” is built around the word for “grace”. There is no gratitude without grace.
Let’s say you have a part-time job where you sell widgets. Let’s say you make $12 an hour selling widgets. After working 10 hours and selling lots of widgets you are owed (before taxes) exactly $120 (yes, I excel at math). When you get your check for $120 are you overwhelmed by a striking sense of gratitude that you can’t get over? No. Of course not. You earned every dollar. You sold lots of widgets and you were owed that money. There is no grace involved there. When a child is given a video game are they forever marked by a lifestyle of deep abiding gratitude? No again. The average child has a certain sense that their parents will give them things, so while they do appreciate said video game, the game probably won’t change their entire outlook on life. Why? There is no grace there.
Allow me to (re)introduce you to a character in a play named Jean Valjean. He is the main character for the beginning of Les Miserable. He, though living in a broken system is undeniably a criminal. Perhaps you would say the socio-economic system Jean finds himself in during the early 1800’s in France is the most criminal thing and as the storyline plays out most would agree with you, however Jean is a criminal none the less. After spending many years in prison he is released and he finds solace in a church and from a Bishop. After the Bishop extends kindness to Jean via a meal and a place to sleep Jean leaves in the middle of the night, but not before stealing much of the church’s valuables. As Jean was fleeing the town with his loot he is stopped by a group of soldiers and questioned. They return him to the church in the morning just as the nuns are bemoans the bishops kindness and perceived naivety. After the soldiers drag him through the front door, opposite the door in the back of the church he left through the night before, the bishop, in front of the soldiers scolds Jean for forgetting the silver candlesticks and encourages him to enter and exit through the front door from now on as it will never be locked. Jean Valjean’s life is never the same again. He is a changed man. Why? There is grace there.
God’s grace is breathtaking. It is awe-inspiring and inexplicable. Yet, we get used to it. Let me say that one more time, and this time really process it. We are used to God’s grace. The fact that God, in all his infinite wisdom and omnipotence looks down at us and lovingly extends grace should leave us all feeling a deep abiding sense of gratitude. God gives “charis” and our response should be a life marked by “eucharistian”, because where there is grace, there should be gratitude.