Do you ever sit there and wonder, “How did society get this way?” You sift through the news and find yourself just gaping in disbelief. It’s obvious that something is not right. That’s not a political observation; it transcends culture, philosophy and party affiliation. Things have gotten wildly out of hand, and some days I want to just throw my hands up and shout, “How did this happen?!”

I’m sure there are multiple complicated answers to that question, but the Bible sums it all up pretty well in Romans 1. In the middle of a passage about the world’s downward spiral of wickedness, we find this key statement:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. — Romans 1:21

Then it goes on to describe that very descent into darkness:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
— Romans 1:28–31

Sounds like society being totally out of whack is not a new thing. And, while we can easily overcomplicate it, the thrust of this passage is quite simple. It all started when the people, in their pride, did not acknowledge or give thanks to God. In a word, it started with their ingratitude.

The first chapter of Romans makes it clear that the truth that God is real is readily available to everyone, but even though these people knew deep down that God existed, they refused to give him honor and thanks. Their sole focus was on themselves, which resulted in malice, envy, murder, hate, and the list goes on.

Here’s the tricky part: this isn’t just true of ingratitude in our society at large. It’s true in our individual lives, as well. Personally, I know that I know God. Still there are days when Romans 1:21 hits a little too close to home for me — times when I forget to acknowledge him, times when I am so fixated on myself, my abilities, my problems, that I cease to show gratitude to the one who sustains me. The result can take me into some dark places.

Of course, it’s way easier for me to just shake my head and judge the society around me. But, truthfully, there’s only one person in this world I can control, and that’s me. If a spirit of selfish ingratitude leads us to all manner of unrighteousness, then the opposite holds true as well. I’ve seen it happen. When I exhibit a spirit of gratitude, it creates in me an upward spiral, momentum in the right direction. When I acknowledge God throughout my day, it changes everything. Perhaps a bit of gratitude can even change the world. Either way, the Bible is clear: the world needs more of it.

So, this season, take the time to acknowledge who God is and how he has blessed you, how he has sustained you, even in the midst of tragedy. Vocalize it to him and share it with others. Fill your social media feeds with what you’re thankful for. That simple spirit of gratitude could very well be a bright light in the darkness, both in your life and in this crazy, out-of-whack world.