Do you know the single greatest enemy of gratitude?
It’s not poverty.
It’s not stinginess.
It’s not mistreatment.
We don’t often recognize the expectancy in our own hearts, because it seems so normal—so right—to us. But we can see it in others.
Take, for instance, the disciples in Luke 9. Jesus had just told them of His approaching suffering and death (verse 44), and as He spoke, they were arguing amongst themselves about their relative importance.
Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.—Luke 9:46
Really?! In the midst of the most tragic and significant news these men would hear until Christ rose from the dead, they had to debate about who was the greatest? That’s a spirit of entitlement, an expectancy of what one deserves.
And I hate to break it to you, but you have it in your heart as well. So do I.
Expectancy is what arises when we feel slighted by someone else. It’s the prick of envy when someone else is recognized for our work. It’s the assumption we will be promoted, thanked, or elevated in our work, our ministry, or our relationships.
If you haven’t noticed, expectancy is deeply rooted in our hearts.
So how do we slay this enemy?
Expectancy is born of pride. I wish that wasn’t the truth, because expectancy seems so much more acceptable a sin than pride. But it is the truth.
In the disciples’ case, expectancy was centered in their own pride of thinking they were important. They had followed Christ for some time now, and they were expecting to be elevated in His kingdom.
What prideful expectations do you have? What do expect should be owed to you because of your labor for the Lord or as payment for your service?
Beware. It’s pride.
And the cure? Humble yourself. Purposefully. Diligently. Immediately.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.—James 4:10
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:—1 Peter 5:6
Maybe you need to serve the person you are pitted against in expectancy. Maybe you need to congratulate the person who received the honor you thought should be yours. Maybe you need to invest in someone else to make them great. Whatever the case, find a way to humble yourself. It’s your first move in slaying expectancy.
Expectancy and gratitude cannot linger long in the same heart. Expectancy is the opposite of gratitude.
The disciples were looking for promotion and praise instead of being grateful that Jesus chose them to be His apostles.
Just one chapter later, Jesus tells the seventy He had sent out that the power He gave them is not what they should be thankful for, but that they get to see Jesus. He reminds them that many kings and prophets yearned for the privilege which they have.
Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.—Luke 10:20–24
So how do you slay expectancy? Give thanks.
Give thanks to God for letting you serve Him. Give thanks to others for investing in your life. Give thanks to everyone you can for anything you can. Give thanks.
Nip It in the Bud
Expectancy is too heinous a monster to allow it to linger long. And it all starts in the mind—in the thought processes of our hearts.
For the disciples, the contention began with, “A reasoning among them, which of them should be the greatest.”
It began with wrong reasoning. The thinking of their hearts came out in their reasoning with one another. That’s how it always works: inward thinking results in outward actions.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.—Luke 6:45–46
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…—Proverbs 23:7
When you first sense a spirit of expectancy arising in your thoughts, slay it immediately. Don’t wait for it to take over your thought processes and drive you to foolish pride.
Want to slay the enemy of gratitude?
Humble yourself. Find a concrete way to express humility.
Give thanks. Remember how blessed you already are.
Nip it in the bud. Don’t let the monster grow larger. Deliver the deathblows of humility and thanksgiving today.