SOME THANKSGIVING QUESTIONS

As we come to Thanksgiving this week most of us will be focusing on what we are thankful for. The past week or so I’ve been asking myself some questions related to the emphasis of the holiday.

One of the things I’ve been asking myself is what is the opposite of being thankful? If your first thought is ingratitude, that’s what I thought as well. But now I’m not so sure. Ingratitude is the absence of gratitude, but is it the opposite of gratitude? I’m ready to nominate complaining and/or grumbling as the opposite of being thankful. In I Corinthians 10 the Apostle Paul warns us to not repeat the mistakes of the children of Israel when they left Egypt for the Promised Land. In verse 10 he concludes his list of things to avoid with “do not grumble as some of them did.” Throughout the record of their traveling in both Exodus and Numbers we read about their grumbling and complaining. It’s hard to be thankful when we are grumbling.

Another question I have been asking myself is what gets in the way of our being grateful? I reread the account in Luke 17:11-19 of Jesus healing 10 lepers and wondered  why the one returned to give thanks, but the other nine did not? I cannot speak for the nine, but I think for some of us we are not as grateful as we might be because of a sense of entitlement. For some reason we think we deserve the good things and blessings in our lives. And if we deserve them, we don’t really need to be thankful for them.

I don’t have a Bible verse for it, but a third question I’ve been asking is shouldn’t we not only be thankful to God, but also to the people He has brought into our lives who are blessings to us? My answer is yes, but why aren’t we more grateful to them? I think the answer for many of us is that we take these people for granted. I’m determined to be intentional about not taking them for granted — not just for this week’s holiday, but all the time.

A final question we might ask is are we really thankful if we don’t express our gratitude? We certainly could be, but wouldn’t it be much better if we stated it? After all, the holiday is called Thanksgiving.

Here’s an illustration from a sermon entitled A Thankful Life by Kevin Harney. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

This is a story I have never shared. It’s a story that goes back to my childhood when we would go for Christmas to my grandmother’s house. My grandmother would give us a gift and then we would always get a gift from Aunt Elaine and Uncle Vernon. I’d never met them. They lived in Flint, Michigan, and we were in Orange County. But we would get a little gift and then a check for fifteen dollars. Back then fifteen dollars was like a million dollars. Every year I would get this check and this little gift from Aunt Elaine and Uncle Vernon, and my mom would say this, “You kids should write Aunt Elaine and Uncle Vernon a thank you note.” And every year my sisters Gretchen and Alison wrote a note, and I didn’t write a note. So one year we got to Grandma’s house, she gave us our little gift, we opened it, and she gave gifts to Alison and Gretchen from Aunt Elaine and Uncle Vernon, but there was no gift for little Kevin. And I looked and I said, “Don’t I get a gift?” And my mom said, “Aunt Elaine and Uncle Vernon let us know that you’ve never written them a thank you note, they will not be sending you Christmas gifts anymore.” I’ll never forget that and I thank God for it. I’m really good at writing notes now. And it’s not just so I get another gift. They probably thought, “He just doesn’t appreciate it, he just doesn’t care,” and they stopped giving the gift.

If we do not express our gratitude do you think God or others may think we don’t appreciate or care what they do to enrich our lives?

Happy Thanksgiving.

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WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE HOLIDAY?

Some readers know immediately what their favorite holiday is and others I’m sure would really struggle to choose just one. I hope no one is thinking of their birthday as I’m confident it isn’t a national holiday. (My birthday wouldn’t even be in consideration because at my age they come too often!)

I haven’t done any polling, but I would guess the majority would choose Christmas. And Christmas is no doubt a wonderful holiday and celebration. Easter would certainly be in consideration for some Christians,and not because of egg hunts and candy, but because of what Jesus’ resurrection means. Dedicated patriots might opt for July 4th or Veteran’s Day and a few romantics for Valentine’s Day. Some sentimentalists may lean towards Mother’s Day and I would hope a few might consider Father’s Day. New Year’s Eve and Day have a lot to offer and may be the choice of a few. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or President’s Day may be in the running for some.  A lot of people enjoy it, but I doubt anyone would choose April Fools’ Day.

Because I haven’t mentioned it, and because it is this week, I’m sure you know I am going to say my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. More than any of the other holidays, the focus of Thanksgiving (expressing gratitude not the eating or football on TV!) is something we should do throughout the year. As John Stott observes, “Thankfulness ought always to characterize the people of God.”

Having a thankful heart is important to God and not having a thankful heart displeases Him. In Romans 1:21 Paul notes about some that “although they knew God [through creation], they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him.” In Luke 17:11-19 Jesus healed ten lepers and was disappointed only one returned to thank Him and give praise to God. The book of Psalms is filled with both calls to give thanks as well as expressions of thanksgiving.

My favorite passage dealing with this subject is I Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” While all three charges are God’s will for us in Christ Jesus, it’s the third one that I want to underscore. Sometimes people misread verse 18 thinking it says “give thanks for all circumstances,” but that’s not what Paul is saying. We are called to “give thanks in all circumstance.” God doesn’t call us to give thanks for every circumstance we find ourselves in, but He does want us to find things in every circumstance for which we can be grateful.

Whether Thanksgiving is your favorite holiday or not, I hope you have a great day Thursday and use the occasion to express gratitude.

Father in Heaven,

Thank you for the holiday of Thanksgiving. We have a sense of how important it is for us to cultivate thankfulness; how good it is for those to whom we say thanks as well as how good it is for us do so. Help us to be aware of our blessings and help us grow in our desire to express gratitude. Draw us to yourself and fill us with your Spirit that we might walk with You. 

We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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