The Unbounded Confidence of a Grateful Heart
“Oh Marcus, the wisest man who ever lived said you can look at life one of two ways. From under the sun, or from under heaven. When we are simply under the sun we are blinded by the daily grind of life. Our colorless joyless existence. But when we are under heaven, when we see things from God’s perspective, we know that everything has a purpose. There is a time and a season for everything. And we can count on this: God makes everything beautiful, in its time.” ~ Finnian Jones, from A ‘Strordinary Little Maid
Deep within the hidden recesses of the human mind there is a treasure that modern scientists are still trying to uncover. Despite brilliant advances in technology, medicine, physics, and philosophy, psychologists are still trying to determine the exact causes behind human happiness and joy. And their recent conclusions just might surprise you!
In a research paper entitled Is Gratitude an Alternative to Materialism?, Emily Polak and Michael McCullough suggest that the practice of gratitude plays a crucial role in counteracting materialism and contributing to feelings of well-being and happiness. These two scientists begin their argument by describing the numerous negative effects associated with a materialistic worldview which encourages people to accumulate physical possessions in order to achieve status and security. In their analysis of current research, Polak and McCullough even acknowledge the evolutionary thinking which motivates some manifestations of materialism, describing how several evolutionary theorists consider materialist tendencies to be necessary traits used to signal a person's status and desirability.
Despite the claims of some evolutionary theorists, the scientific data indicates that materialism is harmful to society. Polak and McCullough observe how “it seems that people often pursue materialistic goals because they believe that wealth and goods can provide them with happiness. However, materialism has exactly the opposite effect: It has a negative association with nearly every quality of life measure studied to date” (347).
If materialism is so dangerous, why do people still focus so much on the accumulation of material possessions? Interestingly, psychologists believe that one of the root causes of materialism is an underlying sense of insecurity. When people begin to worry about their shelter, clothes, or where their next meal might come from, they are more likely to adopt a materialistic mindset and seek to alleviate these worries by finding security in their physical possessions.
Sound familiar? The Gospel writers beat our modern scientists to the same conclusion 2000 years ago! In Matthew 6, Jesus tells the disciples, “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?... the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Modern psychologists agree with Jesus’ teaching that cultivating an attitude of gratitude helps to guard the heart from a materialistic outlook. However, the teaching of the Bible is even more far-reaching in its application! Polak and McCullough suggest that being grateful for the people in our lives can help us live more securely knowing that we have friends to support us. How much more confident and secure can we be as Christians when we develop an attitude of gratefulness toward God, who has literally created the entire universe, yet still loves and cares for each of us and wants to know us on an individual level? Even in times of hardship, we can be secure in the knowledge that God’s plans and purposes for us are ultimately good and greater than anything we could ever imagine!
The above article was written using information from the following sources:
Christoph Von Schmid, 1848
A faithful grandson seeks to find help for his blind grandfather. When the old man finally opens his eyes, he sees a painting on the wall before him and realizes that this is the very house where he buried a wealthy man's inheritance fifty years ago. To their surprise, much more is found than earthly treasure!