The Taj Mahal, India, Built 1632-1653
A teacher once told her students to list what they considered to be the Seven Wonders of the World. Most of the students took the assignment to mean ‘man-made’ wonders, so these students listed things like the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Panama Canal, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. A few students took the assignment to mean the great natural wonders of the world, so those students listed things like the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, and Niagara Falls. One little girl, however, took the assignment in an entirely different way, and ended up with a very different kind of list. Here are the seven things she listed as the greatest wonders of the world: #1) to see; #2) to hear; #3 ) to touch; #4 ) to taste; #5 ) to feel; #6) to laugh; and, #7) to love.
I like that little girl’s list best of all. The other wonders are truly great because of their uniqueness or their great size. But the wonders the little girl listed are even greater precisely because they are so common. Almost every one of us, even the poorest and lowliest, can see and hear. Even those who cannot see or hear, can laugh and love. Those wonders, though common, are truly miraculous, and can fill us with wonder and awe. I marvel at the amazing technology of a camera, but just think how much more the human eye can do– taking in images, constantly focusing and adjusting for light and distance; then instantly recording that image in our memory, there to be retrieved in a few moments, or, in 70 years, and then, if the need arises, be recalled, thought about, and turned into words to describe the image to another. It took a lot of labor and a long time to build the pyramids. But no amount of labor or time can build and install even one little human eyeball, and everyone of us has not one, but two! And that is but one of the seven items on that little girls list. That girl knew how to appreciate the simple things in life.
In Deuteronomy chapter eight the people of Israel are on the verge of entering a new land, the land God promised to bring them to when he freed from slavery in Egypt. As slaves in Egypt they were perhaps working on those pyramids listed by several of the students as one of the great ‘wonders of the world.’ Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to the people for the last time, after leading them for forty years. Within days, Moses will be dead, and the people will move on into the promised land without him. Among the many things he has to tell them, in this chapter he tells them to remember to be grateful. In verses 10 and 11 he says, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord…” or else, Moses says in verses 14 and 17, “or else, you will forget the Lord and say to yourself, ‘my power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’”
Moses then mentions some of the great miracles that God had done for the people in the past, for example, freeing them from slavery and sustaining them in the wilderness. Then, looking ahead, he reminds them to be thankful and praise God for the simplest things– food and water. That is what makes up most of blessings they will receive in the new land, as listed in verses seven, eight, and nine,– food and water. Remember to be thankful, Moses implies, every time you take a drink of water or eat a bite of food.
The problem is we oftentimes forget to be thankful for the many simple blessings that we already have because we already have our eyes on something else, something we do not have, but what someone else does. Everyone in this life gets a different bag of blessings, and we find it all too tempting to forget to be grateful for everything that is in our bag, and be constantly looking around at what someone else has received in their bag, anxious to see if there is anything we are missing out on. Sometimes we are reminded of those who have less than we do, and that reminder can inspire in us feelings of gratitude. But all too often, we are looking at those who seem to have more than we do, and then we are tempted to have feelings of resentment and ingratitude, and perhaps even jealousy and anger. For many people, the receiving of more things makes them not more content, but fills them with an even greater craving for still more.
Deuteronomy 8:10-14 — When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
1 Chronicles 29:13 — Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
Psalm 107:21 — Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.