Familiarity Breeds Ingratitude Before It Breeds Contempt

When we were little children, the first time we received a lollipop or a shiny sticker from our doctor, we were overjoyed and grateful. The second time, we were again excited about trying a new lollipop flavor and the new sticker we could get. Perhaps this time, it would be a scratch and sniff! But the third time, we begin to grow weary with the same old lollipop and sticker choices. So we snuff our noses as we walk by the lollipops and stickers and brighten our eyes to the new, bigger and better prize we have earned! Yep. Earned.

As cute and cuddly as we are when we're little, we're still sinners waiting to tell the world what our demands are and by golly, they better deliver. We start first with our parents. Much like our doctor's visits, we act as if our parents owe us something. For what? Our mother's owe us because she carried us for nine months, fed us, sacrificed her figure and health and some of them, their lives? Our mother's labor for us from the day she conceives until the day one of us dies, and for this, she owes us....what?

Our father's work tirelessly and sacrificially to provide a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and clothes to cover and warm our bodies. And if we're blessed with parents who love the Lord Jesus, then they spend hours reading and studying the Bible themselves and teaching and training us in the love and admonition of the Lord. Christian parents pour out their whole hearts and lives to their children so that they may know Christ and be known by Him.

Additionally, we think our children owe us something because we're doing just as God has commanded? They are God's gifts to us, to draw us nearer to Him; to remind us we can't do anything ourselves (even take care of a helpless infant). Our children humble us and bring us to our knees. And for this, we ought to continually give thanks to the Lord.

Sadly, this uncomely cycle of self-adulation and entitlement extends to our adulthood.

Even as adults, when we first meet a new friend and they share a kindness with us, whether in word or deed (or both), we are very touched and extremely grateful. We're so moved by their kindness, we want to tell our spouse, our children, and everyone on social media. But after this person does something kind a second or third time, we're no longer filled with the same gratitude we first had, rather—we expect it.

Why does this happen? Why does familiarity breed ingratitude and if not dealt with, lead to contempt?

Pride. Entitlement. Ingratitude. Contempt. That's how.

Ever since Adam and Eve committed the first sin in the Garden (believing they could be like God), all humanity has been cursed with insatiable pride that tells us we are owed everything good and nothing bad. This makes us feel entitled, which leads to ingratitude and when we don't recognize and repent of this, we become contemptuous, impatient and unkind to others.

How we see ourselves and those around us, greatly affects our relationship with God. If we can be so prideful, feel so entitled, be so ungrateful and contemptuous towards those we can see, how much more do we behave the exact same way towards God whom we can't see (1 John 4:20)?

We think too much of our own "good" deeds and too little of others. And sadly, sometimes the "good" we think we're doing isn't really a blessing to others, but rather, a burden. It may surprise us to discover, when we get to Heaven, that the time we think we spent blessing someone, was actually, the other way around. It was a sacrifice and unpleasant experience for them to be with us, therefore, a great blessing to us, rather than to them. And we missed it.

We're left in this sad and destructive state as long as we don't repent and remember what Christ did for us on the Cross at Calvary. As much "good" we think we do, we don't and can't do it unless God works it through us (Eph 2:10). Unless God gives us the seed to sow, unless God blesses us with anything to give whether in word or in deed, we have nothing but evil to give anyone (1 Cor 4:7).

The truth is, we owe God everything; and therefore, are indebted to generously love others well because God first gave generously and loved us well.

What we give to the Lord and to others is so minuscule compared to what has been given to us by our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us never assume we're so familiar with others and with God that we feel as if they owe us every good and no evil. And let us always be surprised and grateful for any act of kindness that comes our way. After all, we probably don't even realize the great sacrifice some people make in order to give us a widow's mite.

The next time you sense yourself feeling slighted or indignant about a kindness that wasn't given to you that you assuredly knew you deserved, look to the Cross. No true Christian can fix their eyes on Jesus' costly sacrifice and then turn to see themselves as anything more than an utterly humbled and grateful servant who feels as they should—unworthy of the price that had to be paid to set them free.