Debt of gratitude is a common human value. We usually see this in our families. Children experience a debt of gratitude to their parents for the many sacrifices their parents did for them while they were growing up. To some degree, a parent can demand a debt of gratitude from children.
However, when it comes to relating to our God Almighty, we can never demand a debt of gratitude for the things we are doing in the name of our religion. Jesus made this clear in the “Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard,” found in Matthew 20:1-16. The workers who worked all day demanded a debt of gratitude from the land owner. They felt that the owner owe them more compensation compared to those workers who have worked for only an hour. The parable basically says that the owner can show generosity to whoever he pleases to give. Jesus then ended the parable with a statement: “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” (Matt. 20:16).
What if we stop demanding gratitude, and simply enter into an attitude of generosity and worship? We still do things in the name of our religion, but we do these with humility and joyful expectation of our Master’s approval. Acts of good works and religious service now become expressions of gratitude to the generosity of the Master. We no longer see ourselves as “first” or “last,” but as brothers and sisters together worshiping the Living God. We merely respond in thankfulness. Humanly speaking, we still experience a sense of debt of gratitude. The only difference is that this debt of gratitude is now directed heaven-ward. We serve others out of a debt of gratitude to our God. Our human gratitude becomes acts of worship. We say: “Thank you Lord for your generosity for all the peoples of the world.”