Grace & Gratitude

Al McKay
October 15 2019


Jesus' words, as quoted by Paul: “In everything I have shown you that by such hard work, we must help the weak and must remember the words of the Lord Jesus when he said, ‘To give is happier than to receive’” (J.B. Philips). 

The Reality of the Downtown East Side

Since I started working in the Downtown East Side (DTES) of Vancouver, many people have asked me how I reconcile not only these words of Paul quoting Jesus but also the words Jesus states in Luke 6:30-31:  “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you” (NIV).

I don’t know how these verses make you feel, but I can be pretty attached to my money and my cell phone, car, laptop….Besides, I—or any of us—can find reasons for not giving to panhandlers who are breaking the law.

  • They are going to use my money to get drugs or alcohol. I can’t give them money.
  • Vancouver is expensive and I need what I have to live to pay my bills.
  • I need all my money to live I’m a poor student.
  • I can’t give when I’m only working a part time job.”  

I have learned that if I can’t give money, I can look and see the person, smile or offer a greeting.

Grace & Gratitude

Anyway, what does this have to do with gratitude? 

Could it be that gratitude is at the heart of what it means to love God and to love our neighbour?  

The dictionary says the meaning of this word is loosely connected to grace.  I wonder if a posture of gratitude (and grace) for all of Creation might help us to live into loving our neighbors as ourselves and loving God with all that we are and do.

Gratitude is not only a response to getting things. When we give someone our money, respect, attention, time and love, we are also receivers because we participate in a circle of grace that gives life.

What would happen...

So, I wonder what would happen to our lives if we tried to recognize gratitude foundational to our love for each other?

Any thoughts about what you are grateful for and how gratitude works in your life?


Al McKay serves as a chaplain in East Vancouver. Al's favourite part of his work is seeing Jesus in unfamiliar places of the Downtown East side in Vancouver. When Al was a kid, he wanted to be a teacher or a famous rock drummer when he grew up. If Al had a free afternoon, you'd find him spending time with his wife. 



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