I recently visited two different institutions where people live. One was a prison and the other was a monastery. I was visiting the prison as a part of a prison ministry. I greatly admire people who are constantly reaching out to those who are behind bars.
I also visited a monastery. That is a place where religious people live as a community and are trained for service within the church.
What is the difference in a prison and a monastery? There are some obvious differences, but I recently heard someone suggest that the major difference is thanksgiving. I was fascinated by that concept.
Thanksgiving in a monastery is an expected way of life. People pray and thank God and sing praises. It is training for a life of thanksgiving. That gives a distinctive purpose and special atmosphere to a monastery.
A prison is often a place where people are negative, caustic, hopeless, complaining and constantly having to look out for their own welfare. Very seldom would you expect to find a lot of thanksgiving in a prison.
I have been in some prison settings where people’s lives have been transformed. They don’t fit the above description of a prison. They are thankful and grateful and they have really allowed God to change their prison into a monastery. It becomes a place where they worship and are thankful for all the good things that God is doing in their lives.
Conversely, a monastery can become a prison if people are not thankful. If a priest or potential church worker becomes a cynical, negative, complaining person, that monastery can become a prison to them. It is a place where they feel locked in.
Life each day can either be a prison or a monastery. It is whether or not we have an attitude of gratitude. Thanksgiving can make the difference. If life is something to be endured and we complain about everything, life becomes a prison. If life for us is an expression of God’s grace through us and we are thankful, life becomes a monastery.
In Psalm 107:1 David says, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 95:2 says, “Let us come to Him with Thanksgiving. Let us sing songs of praise to Him.”
If your life feels like you are living in a prison, God will help you move to a monastery. I have a hunch that God wants to shut down more prisons and transfer more people to monasteries.
Thanksgiving is not just a day – it is a daily attitude!