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Ugly Ungratefulness

Today’s reading: I Samuel 19-21; Luke 15:11-32

4 And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you. I Samuel 19:4

31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:31,32

Ingratitude can bring irrational behavior and hatefulness toward others.

Saul was so blinded by jealousy and fear of David that he could not see that the man he wanted to kill was his most loyal and beneficial ally. Saul was king of Israel but the history of his reign is overshadowed by his senseless rivalry with a man who (as we shall see in subsequent readings) would not hurt him even when he could have easily assassinated him. Jonathan attempted to reason with his father and to point out how David had brought success to Saul but he could not keep this perspective clearly in mind. Saul would momentarily relent but then renew his pursuit of the man he feared.

Saul was ungrateful for David. Instead of thanking God for him, he spent most of his energy trying to destroy David.

A similar attitude can be seen in the parable of the prodigal son which is really as much a story about the older brother as it is the wayward younger brother. The older brother could not celebrate the return of his wasteful brother. The father begged him to join in the party, but he was offended by the graciousness and mercy of his father toward the returned son. He complained about not getting such glorious treatment himself. He had never eaten pig slop. He had always been safe and secure. But he focused on what he had not received. He resented the father’s generosity because he felt entitled to more than his brother.

It is curious that Luke does not tell us how the story ends. We leave them with the party going on. The father and older brother are standing outside discussing whether or not he will join the celebration. Does the brother continue to mope and pout, or does he enter into the food and festivities? We aren’t told.

How do you respond? Do you rejoice in the goodness and grace of God in your life or do you feel short-changed, deserving of much more? Are you grateful for God’s mercy or resentful that others who have sinned greatly have been blessed with forgiveness? Ungratefulness is ugly, but, worse than that, it reveals a hardened, lost heart. Think about it.

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