Gratitude Attitudes

Gratitude Attitudes

“Gratitude Attitudes”
(Hebrews 13:1-6)
Series: Captivated by Christ (Hebrews)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

Take your Bibles and join me in Hebrews chapter 13.

We are in the last chapter now of our study we began just a few short months ago, verse-by-verse through Hebrews. Chapter 13, a chapter containing a number of practical exhortations about living the Christian life in our everyday world.

Chapter 13 reminds us that Hebrews is not primarily a theological treatise on the new covenant, but a letter, a letter written to real people living in the real world. Theology is to be lived out. Doctrine leads to duty. Or instruction leads to application. Or revelation (the revealed word) revelation leads to responsibility.

Reviewing the last couple verses from last time, verse 28, we belong to an unshakable kingdom and things that cannot be removed, we are grateful and worship God with grateful hearts. Gratitude; a fitting topic for this week as we celebrate Thanksgiving. “Be grateful and worship God, or serve God with reverence and fear.”

What that worshipful gratitude looks like, or what that “acceptable worship” looks like, is evidenced in the succeeding actions of Chapter 13, beginning at verse 1. We’ll be looking at the first six verses this morning and as I read let me encourage you to be on the lookout for three main things—compassion towards others, purity; a commitment to purity; and then contentment—contentment with the things we have.

Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.

1 Let brotherly love continue.
2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
3 Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.
4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
6 So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”


We’re going to be looking this morning at some “Gratitude Attitudes.” Gratitude to God for the life we have in Christ leads to specific attitudes towards God and one another. The Gospel empowers us and motivates us to live rightly among others.

You may have heard about the pastor who was preaching on forgiveness, forgiving one another, especially forgiving our enemies. After he preached the message he asked his congregation by show of hands, “How many of you can forgive your enemies?” Most of the hands went up, but their was this sweet older lady on the front row who didn’t raise her hand. And he said to her, “Mrs. Smith, can you not forgive your enemies?” She said, “Well, I don’t have any.” And he said, “Really! No enemies.” And he thought, “What a great example for us!” And he asked her join him on the platform. And he said, “How old are you, Mrs. Smith.” She said, “I’m 98 years old.” He said, “98 years old and no enemies!” He said, “How is that possible?” She said, “It’s easy. I’ve simply outlived them all!”

Well, the writer of Hebrews wants us to do more than outlive our enemies. The gospel empowers us and motivates us to love God and love others rightly. Let me invite you to consider these three main actions Christians are to have, three “Gratitude Attitudes.” Number one:

I. Be Compassionate towards People (1-3)

Very first verse out of the gate. Hebrews 13, verse 1. And I remember when I was a Sunday school teacher years ago in Georgia, one of my class members gave me a coffee cup with this verse he had written on it, verse one:

1 Let brotherly love continue.

It’s the Greek word “philadeplhia,” or Philadelphia as in the city in Pennsylvania, the city of brotherly love.

J Vernon McGee insists we translate it “brother Love” and I think he may be right. Brotherly sounds a bit weak, almost optional, whereas Brother Love is real clear: Love your brother. He’s talking about our Christian brothers and sisters. Our brother is any man or woman, who is “in Christ.”

This verse is similar to Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,”

Love for one another in the church, brother love, irrespective of race, brother love, regardless of social background or personality type. Let brother love continue—which suggests we have a tendency to forget. Continue. Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters, as the NIV has it. Keep on loving one another.

And then this love for one another within the church flows out the church doors and into the community, a love for others who are not necessarily brothers and sisters, verse 2:

2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

The word “strangers” there is a word that suggests both Christians and non-Christians. In fact there seems to be a wordplay in the original, in the Greek. Brother love was “philadelphia” and this word for strangers is “philoxenia” and so the writer is like, “Hey, remember: Compassion towards people includes both philadelphia and philoxenia.”

The word “entertain” connotes hospitality, being compassionate, hospitable towards strangers. He has in mind active compassion towards those who are in need. In first century Christianity, this active compassion often took the form of providing a place to stay and food to eat.

When folks were traveling in the ancient near east, there were no Holiday Inns or Hampton Inns that provided comfortable, safe rooms and hot breakfasts. Many inns were dangerous and uncomfortable places. So Christians provided their own houses as places of refuge for weary travelers. Hospitality.

The natural attitude of a Christian is one of hospitality. Christians want to be hospitable to both believers and nonbelievers. It makes us feel good to provide for others. But we can forget over time and become protective of our stuff, our houses, our food. Churches can turn inward and forget to turn outward.

My maternal grandfather used to have this short humorous prayer when he said grace. It was just him, his wife, and two kids. He’d say, “Thank God for the four of us; thank God there’s no more of us!” But some people apply that sort of thinking to the church, you know: “Us four and no more.” But the Bible says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers.” Reach out. Provide for others. Invite them to come in.

Now the writer makes this statement in verse 2 that causes us to sit up and take notice. He says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly, or unknowingly entertained—(whom?)—angels.” In showing hospitality to strangers, some Christians have entertained, or shown hospitality to angels without realizing it. Is that a cool verse, or what?! I mean, be honest. Pretty cool. What’s he getting at?

We’ve noted before the writer takes for granted that his readers know the Old Testament well. So he may be alluding to Abraham back in Genesis 18 and 19; Abraham’s showing hospitality to some mysterious visitors not knowing they were actually angels. And you can read about it later in Genesis 18 and 19.

A thought occurred to me as I was studying this passage last week. The writer says some have entertained angels without knowing it, and I thought, “What if we knew.” “If you and I knew that these strangers were angels, would we be more likely to be hospitable?” If we knew they were angels—not fallen angels, by the way! But what if we knew? Wouldn’t we be more likely to go out of our way for them? We’d be like, “Man, this is awesome! An angel from God! And God is watching me! Come on in Mr Angel! Mi casa, su casa! Eat anything you want, sleep anywhere you like!”

And It occurred to me that that is really the author’s point here. He doesn’t want us to get sidetracked on a theological discussion about angelology, the study of angels in the Scriptures and what angels really look like, and so on. There’s a place for that, but that’s not what he’s wanting us to do. He’s wanting us to be compassionate towards people, all people, even folks we don’t know. And so this is a pretty clever way of saying, in essence:

Just act like every person you meet is an angel, and you’ll do well. Just act like every person you run into, whether you know them or not, just treat them like an angel and you’ll be showing genuine love, genuine compassion and hospitality.

That homeless person outside the restaurant; the old man in the wheelchair you’re walking by in the hallway; the wanderer alongside the highway—angels. If you knew they were angels, would you be more likely to be hospitable? The salesperson who’s interrupting the ballgame knocking on your door; the single mom with the unruly child ahead of you in line at the grocery store; the young lady in prison. Speaking of prison, verse 3:

3 Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.

Remember the prisoners. Be compassionate towards them, too. He probably means primarily those who are in prison for persecution. You’ll recall that from chapter 10 where he recalled this attitude earlier, Hebrews 10:34, “You had compassion on those in prison (ESV).”

Christian persecution led to mistreatment. He says, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated.” So remember them “as if chained with them,” and he adds, “since you yourselves are in the body also.”

That last phrase could refer to the body of Christ, the church. You and I are members of the body, the church. So, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12, “When one member of the body suffers, all the body suffers (cf. v. 26).” But the writer could be just referring to the physical limitations of our human bodies. We all are “in the body” and therefore we suffer hunger and pain. In either case, the point is clear: Remember those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering, feeling their pain in your own bodies.”

Now we said that the writer probably has in mind primarily those who are in prison for persecution. At the same time, however, we know that people were often imprisoned in Bible times for other reasons: inability to pay debts, for example, as some of the parables of Jesus reflect. And, there could be other reasons for imprisonment, men and women unjustly prosecuted, or people awaiting trial. In any case, our Lord Jesus said:

Matthew 25:35-36:
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

And you remember when Jesus spoke those words in Matthew 25 the people are like, “Whaaah? Jesus, I don’t remember your being in prison! You! Locked up?! I don’t remember your asking me for a sandwich outside Subway last week! I don’t remember your asking for a couple bucks standing along the strip on Highway 41 in Henderson. I mean, I think I’d remember that.”

And Jesus said what? “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me (Matthew 25:40).’”

Gratitude attitudes: be compassionate towards people. Secondly:

II. Be Committed to Purity (4)

4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

Here is a clarion call to purity, a commitment to sexual purity. The writer first extols the virtue of marriage. He says, “Marriage is honorable among all.” It’s a good thing. Not everyone must be married, but it is a good thing to be married. Marriage is honorable among all.

Honoring marriage among all includes abiding by God’s exclusive definition of marriage as the committed monogamous union of a man and a woman. To define Christian marriage otherwise is to impose upon God’s definition man’s rebellious preferences.

He adds: “and the bed undefiled.” That’s another way of saying sex within marriage is a good thing. And all of God’s children said, “Amen!” Christian intimacy is neither bad, nor dirty, nor evil. It is honorable and the bed undefiled. Truth is, no one enjoys intimacy better than Christian husbands and wives. Intimacy is God’s gift. But it is an intimacy to be enjoyed in the boundaries of marriage.

Then he adds this statement at the end of verse 4: “but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” The word “fornicators” is the word “pornous,” from which we get “pornography.” It’s a word that encompasses sexual immorality in general, and more specifically sexual impurity among those who are unmarried. Pornous refers to sin among the unmarried and impure. The word translated “adulterers” there is a different word, a word that refers to impure married persons.

The last three words of verse 4 should get our attention: “God will judge.” God will judge all “fornicators and adulterers.” And those who are not Christians have even greater cause for concern in that God will judge them outside of Christ. Unbelievers have no righteousness of Christ credited to them. They are separated from God. Their fornication or adultery is part of their sin in general that needs the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. They need to be saved to escape final condemnation in hell. Maybe some of you need Christ. You need to repent and turn from your sin and turn to Jesus to be saved.

But God will also judge the Christian who has engaged in fornication or adultery. The judgment of God for Christians does not mean final condemnation in hell. But God will discipline Christians. Recall Hebrews 12:6, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” God’s judgment upon Christians is not about God’s punishing us and final condemnation in hell. Jesus Christ absorbed all of God’s punishment upon us for sin. Jesus absorbed all the wrath of God for believers. Thank God!

God’s judgment upon Christians who engage in fornication and adultery has to do with His chastening and scourging those He loves. And this judgment has to do with loss of future rewards in heaven as well as His allowing us to suffer consequences here in this life. King David for his adultery, for example, suffered great consequences for his sexual immorality. You can’t help but notice it in the years of his life after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. He was a broken man, a weaker man. A bird doesn’t fly as high when its wing is damaged. We’re wise to take heed to the writer’s warning and be committed to purity. Paul warns in Galatians 6:7: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

We’ve always needed this call for sexual purity among God’s people. And it’s a message that is not always well received by popular culture. Even John The Baptist, you’ll recall, got his head chopped off for preaching against open marriage. You can check the reference later in Matthew 14.

Despite the popular Hollywood movies, despite the popular music we stream on our devices, despite the popular television, Netflix and Hulu episodes, sex belongs exclusively in marriage and nowhere else. Does that sound prudish? I’m sure it does by today’s lax moral standards, but it is true nonetheless. You’ll be glad to follow God’s word to the letter here. It will save you from a world of hurt.

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”

Someone laughs you to scorn for being so “puritanical,” you tell them, “Thank you!” Do you know what that word means, puritanical? Like a Puritan. Like our godly English Baptist forebears who crossed the Atlantic to live in this country as those who loved God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. I say it is a badge of honor to be called puritanical.

But before we “Amen” too loudly, let us remember it was Jesus who said that adultery is not just something you do with your body, but adultery is something you can do with your mind, with your thinking:

Matthew 5:27-28:
27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Looking lustfully at the opposite sex leads to adultery in the heart. Looking lustfully, thinking inappropriate thoughts, viewing sexually explicit images on the internet, all of these things may lead to our downfall if we don’t take charge of our thoughts and, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “…take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” It takes discipline.

Adrian Rogers used to say about people of whom it is said “How far they had fallen,” that we didn’t know how low they were living. In other words, people don’t usually fall a great distance all at once. It occurs little by little over time. Compromise here, a little compromise there. And we cover up on the outside, but we’ve been living low for quite some time, indulging that secret sin. Kill it this morning. Kill it and let it die.

And when you sense that it is starting to raise its ugly head again through sexually suggestive comments others make, or you think, or a joke, or something that you see on a screen, kill it again.

You know how when you are driving on the highway and you see those guardrails around curves are alongside a bridge. Why are they there? They are there not to punish you, but to keep you on the road, to keep accidents from happening. God’s rules for sex and marriage are like guardrails that God has put up in your life, not to punish you, but to keep accidents from happening.

Gratitude attitudes: be compassionate towards people, be committed to purity. Thirdly:

III. Be Content with Possessions (5-6)

5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

This was one of my first memory verses years ago. I memorized from the King James Version and it reads, “Let your conversation be without covetousness,” conversation was the Old English way fo referring to behavior. Let your behavior, or your conduct, be without covetousness, but be content with such things as you have. Be content with your possessions.

In the original, in the Greek, “covetousness” is more literally, “the love of money.” So the ESV for example has, “Keep your life free from love of money…” Remember it’s not money that is the problem, it is the love of money. 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” And be honest here:

Someone says, “Well, I don’t love money.” But they fantasize about it, romance it, and lose sleep over it. Sounds a lot like love to me!

“Be content with such things as you have.” He’s not saying, “Stop working. Just lay down and don’t do anything.” Contentment is not a call to be idle. The Bible is replete with exhortations to hard work, thrift, even wealth building and good economic stewardship. What the writer is doing here is giving Christians an important spiritual principle: “Don’t love stuff.” It’s the 10th Commandment:

Exodus 20:17: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Madison Avenue suggests something very different! They may as well say: “Covet this! Covet that!” Michele and I were in a meeting in another state one time where she complimented a woman for the dress she was wearing. The woman said, “Well I didn’t want to covet it, so I bought it (!).” I don’t think that’s how that works!

Notice something unexpected here in verse 5: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have,” and then you would expect the writer to say something like, “for God will provide all you need.” So, “Let you conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have,” and then you expect, “And here’s why: because God will give you what you need,” But that’s not what it says.

The writer says, “…Be content with such things as you have,” why? “For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” and he’s quoting there from Deuteronomy 31 and Joshua 1. “Be content because God said, ‘I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.’”

The writer is teaching us that contentment is something built upon the character of God, namely the fact that He is always with us. His will always be present. Literally, the Greek is, “No, I will not leave, no, nor forsake thee,’” talk about a double-negative, this is a quadruple negative! “No, I will not…no, nor…”

Verse 6 expands upon this fact that the Lord Himself is the bedrock of our security. Contentment does not come from our owning a lot of things and having enough and feeling secure so we can sit back and enjoy it all. Contentment is found in Christ alone.

6 So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

This is a quote from Psalm 118, a popular Jewish Thanksgiving Psalm, used often in festivals. And again, the writer is driving home the point that contentment is found solely in Christ. This was Paul’s point in Philippians 4: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (verses 11-14).”

Contentment is found solely in Christ. “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

One writer says we must “remember that nothing overly tragic can happen to us. We can lose everything we have, and it will be okay so long as we endure in the faith.” He adds:

I admit this is easy to say and a much harder thing to actually live out. But everything that can be taken away from us will be taken away from us one day. Nevertheless, we have everything we need in Christ, and we can be content because we serve a God who cares for us. The Lord is on our side (R. Albert Mohler, Hebrews).

As our Lord warns in Luke 12:15, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Our life is in Christ! He is our greatest possession. All I have is Christ!
Let’s pray.

Response: “All I Have is Christ”

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