Americans have a much different life experience than 90% of the world. As a result we tend to view the world from a very different perspective. For us a hardship might be defined as a flat tire, a difficult boss, a bad relationship, or losing a job. For the rest of the world hardship is no food, no clean water, no decent clothes or shoes, possibly no family or emotional comfort and the constant likelihood of injury, illness or even death.
These differing realities create a “glass floor” of sorts. Hardships beyond our own experience are difficult to comprehend. Even when confronted with the realistic images provided by modern media it is difficult for us to conceive “hardship” or “need” which is much beyond our comfort zone of existence.
Surprisingly gratitude is more often fueled by need, than by satisfaction. Therefore, experiencing need first hand through ministry, even vicariously, helps drive us to greater levels of gratitude. This is why ministry is so important! Ministry (sharing our gifts of time, talent and treasure) nourishes the minister as well as those being served. It shatters the glass floor and brings us in contact with the realities of those for whom we are called to care. It provides us with the realization of how much we really have; how gifted we are, in comparison with the rest of the world’s inhabitants, vividly demonstrating the many reasons we should be grateful.
In turn, deep, heart-felt gratitude, conscious acknowledgement of how much we have been given by God, should naturally lead to increased generosity. There is an important dynamic created by being fully participative in the gifting of time, talent and treasure (not time, talent or treasure). Each enhances the experience of the other. Service in ministry enhances gratitude which, hopefully, increases our desire to be generous.
© 2010 James E. Carper. All rights reserved.