The Internet recently reported that the exterior foundation of a church built in the 1300s–the tallest in Europe–in Ulm, Germany has been so seriously eroded from urine and vomit that the integrity and aesthetics of the entire structure is now at risk. Attempts to beef up security have failed to solve the problem.
Then, just this morning there was an article on the MSN home page reporting that since 1970 “The number of wild animals living on earth is set to fall by two-thirds (since 1970) by 2020 . . . part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends.”
Stories like these remind me of a general truism: When we fail to appreciate the good things we have, we risk losing them! Like the ancient Israelites who lost their wealth after taking it for granted; who in failing to appreciate their freedom, eventually lost it; who in failing to appreciate their exceptionalism, became ordinary; and who in failing to appreciate their God-ordained leadership role among the nations, ultimately became subject to foreign, oppressive rule.
We can conclude that much of what happened to Israel was the result of God’s judgment. We can assume that some things were simply the natural consequences of their bad behavior.
Today, we appear to be going down a similar path as a nation. For instance, in the political arena there are many today who don’t value the basis of our country’s strength and greatness–such as our Constitution, law and order, our military, freedoms of speech and religion, independence, and the opportunity to gain material possessions. Even in the Christian community, there are many who neglect God’s gifts to us–especially the freedom to vote.
Only God knows how these trends will play out over time. However, we can read what happened to Israel when they failed to appreciate their blessings. The nation descended into anarchy and chaos:
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted (Judges 21:25).
This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to think about a time where you experienced the loss of a physical asset, your health, a relationship or even something spiritual in nature. Have any of these losses happened as a consequence of your own lack of appreciation? Perhaps so! Because we all need to do better in this regard, Jesus taught that how we regard what He has put in our care is a serious matter:
I tell you, that to everyone who has, more will be given; and from the one who does not have, even what he does have will be taken away (Luke 19:26).
Understand that in appreciating what we have, we do ourselves a favor. We can also be thankful, as we find in my Life Essentials Study Bible, Principle #19, page 1723 in Hebrews, that when we get off track, God will take steps to put us back on course:
Whenever we walk out of God’s will, we should be reassured that we are His children when we experience His discipline in our lives.