Gratitude is one of the most foundational components of authentic Christianity.
It is the humility that recognizes that what God has done for us is undeserved. It gladly acknowledges, with an open heart and mouth, that everything we’ve received is from God.
I have often said that I can tell you how proud a man is by how much or little he prays. But I can also tell you how proud a man is by how quickly or slowly he gives thanks—to others and, most importantly, to God.
A humble man’s heart is so full of gratitude that it spills out without thinking.
One of the most important words in the Old Testament is the word checed [che-said]. It is used over 240 times. It is often translated as “lovingkindness” or “mercy.” Some translations use the phrase “steadfast love.”
But checed is more than mere love. It is a word that carries multiple thoughts. Our English language cannot capture this rich Hebrew word in a single word.
Here’s how Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words describes it:
In general, one may identify three basic meanings of the word, which always interact: “strength,” “steadfastness,” and “love.” Any understanding of the word that fails to suggest all three inevitably loses some of its richness. “Love” by itself easily becomes sentimentalized or universalized apart from the covenant. Yet “strength” or “steadfastness” suggests only the fulfillment of a legal or other obligation.
The word refers primarily to mutual and reciprocal rights and obligations between the parties of a relationship (especially Yahweh and Israel). But checed is not only a matter of obligation; it is also of generosity. It is not only a matter of loyalty, but also of mercy. The weaker party seeks the protection and blessing of the patron and protector, but he may not lay absolute claim to it. The stronger party remains committed to his promise, but retains his freedom, especially with regard to the manner in which he will implement those promises. Checed implies personal involvement and commitment in a relationship beyond the rule of law.
Notice the thought of God’s love, kindness, and mercy toward us carried in this single Hebrew word:
- He loves us. This alone, knowing our sinfulness, is amazing.
2. He loves us with kindness, or mercy. It is love we do not deserve—the stronger giving something to the weaker that is not required by law, but is given by grace. And it is a love that manifests itself in doing things for us. It is a love that is marked by unfathomable kindness. God is not only good, He is also kind toward us.
3. His love toward us is everlasting. It never ceases, even when we wander, or sin, or fail. His love keeps lasting towards us.
Psalm 136 is an amazing psalm. The psalmist recounted twenty-six different things God had done for Israel. He followed each statement with this refrain: “For His lovingkindness [checed] is everlasting.”
It’s almost hard for us to read this psalm because of the redundancy of this statement. But that redundancy is the point: Every statement of what God has done for us should be followed by a humble, awe-inspired statement of gratitude.
It should be a common exercise—in fact, a daily routine—for us to recount the lovingkindness of God toward us.
It would be a great and needed routine for you to sit with family or friends in prayer, rehearse what God has done for and given to you, and after each statement say together, “His lovingkindness [checed] is everlasting.”
I believe it’s a word we need to become familiar with. We’ll be using it often, for eternity.