“There is no example in the Bible of someone expressing gratitude to another person.”
I so clearly remember Dieudonné Tamfu matter-of-factly making this assertion to me during his time as a seminary student here during the school’s formative years. For me, it was the first time that I came to understand that all biblical gratitude is Godward. All of it. Decades had I walked in the Christian faith oblivious to this stunning truth.
All gratitude is Godward.
Berean by nature, I did not just take Dieudonné’s word for it. As I continued in my Bible reading over the years, I sought “to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). One morning during devotions I suddenly came upon a passage that seemed to contradict this premise of no man-directed gratitude in Scripture. By now, Dieudonné Tamfu is an all-but-legally adopted member of my family, so in the feisty spirit of father-son competitiveness I fired off an email.
“I’ve found an example of gratitude expressed by a person to another person in the Bible.”
He replies, “No you haven’t.”
“Well, what about Acts 24: 2–3, where Luke writes of Paul before Felix at Caesarea?” “And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying: ‘Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude [emphasis mine].’”
“Gotcha, right?” I boasted.
Within seconds my email alert pinged, “Only if you consider the obsequious words and the motivation of the toadying sycophant who spoke them to resemble anything approaching real ‘gratitude.’” Game. Set. Match.
We want to say, “Thank you.”
For most of us, there are a multitude of kind people in our lives doing kind things for and toward us every day. Some of those things are simply workaday: an opened door, a lightened load, a compliment, a service rendered. Other kindnesses are weightier and more lavish: a conflict resolved, liberation from a jam, perhaps a rescue from life-threatening danger. When good is done toward us, we reflexively want to say, “Thank you,” and when we’ve done the good deed—admit it—we expect to hear it, even for new socks from Grandma at Christmas. And we should express gratitude, but in a way that honors both the Giver and whomever he may employ to minister his grace. This is the essence of the Bible’s teaching of the exclusivity of gathered gratitude.
God has supplied our 2019–2020 need in full.
So, we thank God for you. Our great God has faithfully supplied the financial need of Bethlehem College & Seminary for another academic year, ended on Tuesday of this week. All full-time students were able to receive a fully-funded $10,000 Serious Joy Scholarship—and paid unusually low tuition—such that they could receive an “Education in Serious Joy,” graduate, and launch into life and ministry without a burden of debt. We express this gratitude Godward, but we do so regarding you not so much as “givers,” but to us as “gifts.” You are gifts to us. What a profound blessing to be placed by God in proximity to your own love for him and to be splashed by the overflow of your spiritual affections. Oh, yes, we earnestly look Godward and cry out in thanksgiving to Him that you have made our students and their professors a work of your personal ministry for Jesus Christ.
John Calvin wrote, “The reason why Paul enjoins us both to pray and to give thanks without ceasing [1 Thess. 5:17; cf. 1 Tim. 2:1, 8] is, of course, that he wishes all men to lift up their desires to God, with all possible constancy, at all times, in all places, and in all affairs and transactions, to expect all things from him, and give him praise for all things, since he offers us unfailing reasons to praise and pray.”
It is still day. The work of his works continues. The page is turned, and a new school year has begun without a single financial credit yet added to its ledger. We pray for funds to allow the admission of another international student in 2021 as a grantee of the Alex Steddom International Student Fund, but more on all this later.
Join us at this time in pausing to give thanks to God for all that he is in his holiness and perfection, for his steadfastness toward those who labor for his kingdom, for his specific grace toward Bethlehem College & Seminary, and for his morning-by-morning mercy toward us all.
Rick Segal is Vice President of Advancement and the Distinguished Lecturer of Commerce and Vocation.
- Pray that school may start on August 24 in an atmosphere that permits us to gather in-person and make the most of the highly relational, church-based environment that is a Bethlehem College & Seminary hallmark.
- Pray that all existing students will return for the new school year and all newly admitted students will arrive to begin their educations here.
- Pray for students whose previous plans may have changed due to current circumstances, but who may yet begin or continue school with Bethlehem College & Seminary as we accept new applications right up to the first day of classes.
- Pray that $185,000 might be raised this summer to replenish the Alex Steddom International Student Fund such that we can invite a new international student to join the seminary in 2021.