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The Power of Gratitude

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Every day of our lives, we are the unwitting recipients of countless messages designed to foster discontentment. They’re very effective at making us believe we need something more.  In fact, according to one study, more than 60 percent of us always have something in mind that we look forward to buying.

That’s what makes the following words seem so out of synch with our daily experience.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” – 1 Timothy 6:6-8

What? Content with only food and clothing? Why, that’s downright un-American! Or so it seems. But do you know what else it is? It’s liberating.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I decided to give away one of our cars.  It needed a cost prohibitive repair, so we gave it to a ministry that fixes cars and then gives them to needy families.  The car had 165,000 miles on it and a number of dents. It had been hit a couple of times while parked in our former neighborhood in Chicago.  A tree branch even fell on it once, denting the roof.  Because of its high mileage, we never bothered to fix the dents.

When I was working in corporate America, I would drive into the parking lot of my office building and pass lots of new cars. Driving that old car gave me frequent opportunities to practice contentment, and there were definitely days when I needed extra practice!

What helped the most was reminding myself that having a paid-off car gave us the financial freedom to build savings targeted toward being able to leave my corporate job one day to write and speak full-time. The more I dwelled on that benefit, the more thankful I felt. In the process, I saw firsthand that gratitude drives contentment and serves as a powerful antidote to our culture’s constant encouragement to want something more.

Instead of always having something in mind that we look forward to buying, what if we always had something in mind that we were thankful for?

What are you thankful for?  And if you really want to challenge yourself, think of something you own that you’re eager to replace.  Try to find something about that to be thankful for.  What comes to mind?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.

I devote the first post of every month to looking at a verse of Scripture that relates to our use of money.  Here’s why.

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Categories: Faith & Finances, Psychology of Money

6 Responses to “The Power of Gratitude”

  1. Kevin R. Tengesdal says:

    I was the beneficiary of one of those auto ministries when I was in Bible College in the late ’90s. Wow, what a blessing it was to receive a “newer” vehicle when my old Datson B210 deceased. I don’t remember their words exactly, but the ministry said to simply receive the grace of God in the gift of the vehicle.

  2. Matt Bell says:

    That’s great to hear, Kevin. The car we gave away didn’t look very good, but the engine was really reliable, and for someone without transportation, a reliable vehicle is a great starting point!

  3. Melissa says:

    Hi Matt,

    I’m a frequent reader! My friend started this group on Facebook called Thankful Thursday and each week on Thursday we change our statuses to reflect what we’re thankful for! So I appreciate this blog. I’m actually very thankful for my car. It’s a 1999 Honda Civic. But I remember back when I had a Buick and it was breaking down and I didn’t know how I was going to be able to afford a new car. I’m still paying off this car to my credit union, but soon I’ll own it free and clear.I remember the hassle in buying a new car and so I’m really thankful for reliable transportation, especially living in Los Angeles.

  4. Matt Bell says:

    Melissa – What a great use of Facebook! Thanks for sharing that idea – hopefully it’ll spread.

  5. Matt, what a great reminder.

    I am driving a 95 Bonneville that I can’t wait to give to our church. I can completely relate to practicing patience and gratitude. My car has 150k miles, rear ended twice, blown airbags, pealing paint. Yeah, it’s an eye sore, but I’m thankful to get where I need to be without a car payment. I bought the car in 2003 for $3500 and was recently rear ended with little visible damage, but enough to comletely ‘total’ the car per the insurance. They wrote me a check for $1600 + $2000 for pain and suffering and let me keep the car with a salvage title! How cool is that for getting my money’s worth…God is good to us for sure!

  6. Matt Bell says:

    Joshua – I appreciate your attitude! It sounds like you’re weren’t hurt, or at least not too badly, in the accident. I’m thankful for that. Maybe the “pain and suffering” compensation was for any “pain” you have felt as you wait to give the car to your church!

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