Today I was reading Jill Carattini’s thoughts on “indebtedness.” I couldn’t help but to think about why it is a struggle for so many Christians to surrender and sacrifice their lives to God. We try so hard to muster up the courage and the devotion to be willing to give up everything to God, but maybe we have been looking at things in the wrong way. Instead of increasing our devotion level, we need to increase our gratitude level.
The implications of that etymological statement perhaps unveil our haste in responding to debt. Indebtedness is uncomfortable, after all; to be rid of it is liberating. Gratitude, on the contrary, asks much more of us. Our sense of indebtedness is not removed, but lingers in a state of being thankful.
Of course, you can return a favor and still experience gratitude for the favor given you. But you can also return a favor simply to reciprocate, to mindlessly remove that feeling of indebtedness. One psychology class carried out a revealing experiment on this subject. The professor sent Christmas cards to a large list of complete strangers to test the Rule of Reciprocation. He found response astounding. Cards came pouring back to him, all from people he had never met, the vast majority never even inquiring into the identity of the unknown sender! They simply received his card, and automatically sent one in return.
The experiment merits inquiry into our own lives. How do we respond to the sense of obligation? Are we uncomfortable with indebtedness? It is worth asking if for no other reason than that there will be times in life for which there is no fitting response to indebtedness. What happens when we discover there is no appropriate response to the gift or the giver? What will happen when we simply cannot reciprocate?
Quite simply, we respond with gratitude. We come into the presence of the giver with thanksgiving and we are changed by the gift. And when the giver is Christ, freely submitting to death for a debt that was not his but ours, how then do we respond? The old hymn perhaps offers much wisdom:
Hmm… Oh, what God can do with people who understand this principle! During this Advent Season may we never forget.