You can’t pour tea from an empty pitcher.
Families gather this week for an annual Thanksgiving feast. At many of those tables, at least here in the south, iced sugar – I mean, iced tea will be served. One simple, but obvious truth recognized by every hostess is that the pitcher must be filled before it can be used to fill the glasses.
In the same way, you can’t pour thanks from an empty heart. Sometimes we may find it difficult to be thankful. We know that we ought. We remember God’s command to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We may even want to feel more grateful but find that the feeling just isn’t there.
We can’t pour out thanks until our pitcher is filled. Jesus once visited the home of a prominent religious leader. The house was grand, the food exquisite, the host respected and admired. But, the service was shoddy. Jesus was treated coolly - not respected and not fully welcomed. The host’s pitcher was empty.
In contrast, a disreputable woman snuck into the dinner and literally fell all over Jesus. She made quite a scene, blubbering uncontrollably, wetting Jesus’ feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, and pouring pricey perfume on them. The host protested. Jesus praised.
Then, Jesus told a simple parable about two men, one who owed MasterCard two year’s salary, the other owing two month’s pay. As part of an economic recovery plan, MasterCard forgave both debts. “Which of the two,” Jesus asked his host, “would you think was the more grateful?” (Luke 7:42 CPV).
It wasn’t hard for the host to see the right answer. “The one who was relieved of the larger debt,” he replied. It may have been a bit harder, though, for him to see the point. He would have quickly concluded that the loose woman in his living room was the biggest debtor. But, he would have been wrong. His arrogant self -righteousness was a far deeper deficit. He could not be filled with gratitude because he was too full of himself. Not seeing his shortcoming, he sealed the lid of his pitcher even while the giver of grace was a guest in his home. And it remained empty.
You can’t pour tea from an empty pitcher. And, you can’t pour thanks (eucharis) from a heart empty of God’s grace (charis). If we hope to overflow with gratitude, we much first let him fill our hearts with his grace.