My feedreader was full of posts about the US Thanksgiving today.
Having given thanks for the bounteous volume of their possessions and blessings, the US sleeps in preparation to go out and buy lots of stuff at their Black Friday Sales.
Living the dream, I guess.
One post by Denny Burk stood out, though.
Here’s a slab:
The Christian’s duty to give thanks is pretty clear in scripture. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This is one aspect of God’s will that is not secret or hidden. It’s not something that we have to pray about. We already know what it is. Giving thanks in every circumstance is the normative ethic for all Christians.
Nevertheless, there is at least one place in scripture in which Jesus warned against giving thanks. From Luke 18:9-14:
9 And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
The Pharisee gives thanks, yet Jesus reproaches him for it. Why? Because God-belittling thanksgiving is not real thanksgiving. The Pharisee is condemned for failing to exalt God in his thanksgiving. The tax-gatherer finds salvation because he humbles himself.
Today is Thanksgiving, and I’m struck by how secular this celebration has become over the years. At the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims gave unambiguous praise and thanks to God. At today’s Thanksgiving, too many of us have no notion of God at all. We tend to forget about Him as we offer generic thanks to the ether. God is not exalted by this kind of thanksgiving.
Thankfulness needs someone or something to be thankful to, not just something to be thankful about.
Otherwise your display of thankfulness is simply happiness that you’re better off than someone else, or a covert operation in thanking yourself.