The Antidote for Sin

In Ephesians 5:3-4, Paul writes a pretty strongly worded warning against immorality on almost every level. Then he makes this surprising statement:  “Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.” Now I’m not surprised to see an exhortation to thankfulness. It’s that little word, instead. What does this command have to do with the prior directives to avoid immorality, course jesting, crude conversation and coveting?

I think I experienced part of the answer on a recent trip to England, where I had the delight of visiting my younger sister Dar Gail and her dear family. It was a triply blessed trip because I went to work with some of Dar Gail’s colleagues at the missionary training center where she and her husband serve, plus I stayed a couple extra days  to spend time with family and play the tourist, and finally my sister Tammy was able to go with me. What a treat to minister and play together with family!

On Sunday we decided to go to Lincoln to tour the cathedral and shop the little town. The drive takes about an hour on some pretty narrow, winding roads, but my brother-in-law Geoff is an expert chauffeur. We packed snacks, toys, changes of clothes for the two little ones–ages 3 and 1–and buckled them into car seats.

About 45 minutes into the ride, Gracie, the three-year-old began to act grouchy and whiny. We figured it was a long drive and she was probably getting bored, but she didn’t respond to any of our efforts to cheer her up. Finally, Dar Gail said, ‘I think we need to play the thankful game! Gracie, let’s think about what we are thankful for.” Gracie just furrowed her brow at Dar Gail, but we proceeded to “model” thankfulness for Gracie.

“I”m thankful we get to go on an outing all together today.” Tammy said.

“I’m thankful your aunties could come and visit us.” Dar Gail added. Then she asked, “What are you thankful for, Gracie.” Gracie responded with a frown.

“I’m thankful that we get to go see the cathedral.” I said, glancing over at Gracie. Her expression was pained. “Gracie, are you okay?” I asked, an instant before it happened. Without answering me she began to throw-up, profusely, generously, everywhere!

Of course we all scrambled into action, Geoffrey looking for a place to pull off on the narrow road we were traveling, me trying tofind some kind of bag or receptacle to catch the vomit, Tammy  moving anything possible out of the way of the torrent.

A good thirty minutes later, we had managed to clean Gracie and everything else up as well as possible on the side of the road. And we were all still in high spirits. Dar Gail aptly commented, “I guess God knew we needed to be in a mindset of thankfulness to deal with this detour graciously!” We all had a laugh at that. But it was indeed true. Our thinking had been turned toward thankfulness, our hearts full of gratitude toward God, and even though a car-sick child wasn’t on our agenda, we were able to deal with the disaster with a positive attitude, instead of despair or defeat.

I think that is at least partly what Paul was getting at in this passage in Ephesians. He was saying, “Have a practice of being thankful. Because that will totally change our outlook; it is the antidote for falling pray to lust, coveting and inappropriate conduct.” Doug Wilson says, “Lust is fundamentally a complaint that God has not given you what want or think you need.” Now try complaining to God about what you don’t have at the same time that you are thanking him for what He has given you! It just doesn’t work! Not when it comes to lustful desires or other covetous expectations.

INSTEAD if we can only “Let there be thankfulness to God,” we discover that the complaints die out, the traps of lust and coveting no longer have the same power over us.


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