Is This All the Thanks I Get?
“Then I said to them, ’If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.’ And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.”—Zechariah 11:12
For several years Carolyn and I, like Job, sat in a Nash heap—a 1959, porcelain–white, Nash Rambler station wagon that looked for all the world like an inverted bathtub on wheels. (If turned up side down I could have clamped an outboard motor on the rear bumper and raced the thing in Vancouver’s annual Nanaimo Bathtub Regatta.)
I still remember the day we began visiting car lots to replace it. We looked at a number of shiny new cars and finally decided on a purchase. Unfortunately, the payments were more than we could carry.
We dickered for a while with the salesman—his price and ours—but concluded that the twain would never meet and hastened to make our departure. On the way out of his office, the salesman gave us his best shot: “Hey, you guys deserve this car,” he shouted. In my heart of hearts I responded: “Indeed we do!”
Entitlement has always been one of my soft spots. “My accomplishments deserved unending praise,” I say, which is why I get my nose out of joint when others fail to fully appreciate me.
Then, one day I happened upon God’s word to Zechariah about a shepherd who would be dedicated to the good of his people, who would encourage peace, prosperity, and bring tranquility and harmony to his flock. He, however, far from being appreciated, would be despised and rejected, valued at thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. Should I expect more?
One of the things I’m learning, as I’ve grown older, is not to expect too much from people. It’s possible to pour a good deal of energy and love into a friend or family member and see no growth, or receive no gratitude for our efforts.
It’s good, in those times of disappointment to look into our motives: do we have an unholy sense of entitlement, or a passion to be seen and applauded for our efforts? Can we give freely and allow others to take responsibility for their own responses?
We should never expect to gain from others what only Jesus can give. To do so is to be utterly unrealistic. Our task is to give— “full measure, pressed down, running over”—and leave the outcome to our Lord.
There are grateful men and women in this world and we may hear from them, but if the statistics in Jesus’ story of the ten lepers means anything at all they suggest that only a small percent of those we love and serve will ever thank us. The others will be silent at best. Some may even become hostile.[i] We should take note that even one remembered and was thankful, remembering that God alone enables us to do good things for others.
If the love of a grateful heart
As a rich reward be given,
Lift thou the love of a grateful heart
To the God of Love in Heaven.”[ii]
[i] A social worker I know commented recently that, in his opinion, the insatiable demands of those who feel “entitled” and their bitter resentment when their demands are not met, more than any other cause, produce care-giver burnout—the fatigue and depression that plague so many of his colleagues.
[ii] George MacDonald, “Lessons for a Child”