Thanksgiving will be here in just over two weeks. What does that mean to most people in America? Well, if polls can be trusted, most people associate Thanksgiving with a feast, football, and family; not necessarily in that order.
Most people gathering for Thanksgiving will do so for a feast with family and friends. About 25% say they will spend $100 or less for Thanksgiving dinner (that’s us), still about 60% say they will spend between $100 and $200. That’s a lot of turkey.
Certainly getting together with family and friends is a blessing, and doing so around a table of good food is usually helpful, and for many Americans watching a duel between the Cowboys and the New York Giants, the big city against the big state, while chomping on some turkey or pecan pie can be an enjoyable time. But is that what Thanksgiving is all about?
If you go online you’ll find all sorts of accounts of what Thanksgiving is about, or in our historical redaction environment, what it should be about. In many schools in the heartland of America you may even still find students putting on plays or assemblies reenacting pilgrims and Indians having a meal together.
But Thanksgiving back in the 1600s, regardless of whether it included a meal, was not about a feast, or having a good time, it was about its namesake – giving thanks to God.
It is God who causes the sun to rise. It is God who causes the rain to fall, on both the righteous and the unrighteous. It is God who causes the germination of the crops to bring about the annual harvest. Sometimes those harvests are bountiful, and sometimes they are extremely lean. But however they work out from year to year we are to give thanks to God for what we have.
Sometimes we break bread with friends that last a lifetime, and sometimes we break bread with those with whom peace does not last. But what occurs down the road in no way changes the fact that what we have and what we share on any given day should be received and shared by thanking God first and foremost.
In our society today much of our thankfulness to God for what we have has been lost, much to our detriment. WE know how to increase the production of the average crop. WE know how to harvest and store our food so that it goes further. With OUR technology WE – WE – WE. We have too much forgotten that it is God who causes all things to work, thus we have forgotten to be thankful as we should be.
I was reading in Isaiah the other day about harvesting. I find it interesting that God didn’t congratulate people for “figuring out” how to plow and to plant and to reap and to thresh. God makes it clear in Isaiah 28:29 that this knowledge comes from the Lord. Thus it is to Him that we should continually give thanks, not to ourselves.
I recall something Albert Einstein once said in response to a question as to how he came up with his great ideas. He said something to the effect that “ideas are just floating around. If you don’t act on them someone else will.”
I think that was rather humble of Einstein, especially considering his genius, but if I could have had the opportunity to speak with him I would have told him those “floating ideas” actually come from God, and it is to Him that the geniuses of the world should give thanks. In fact, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 God says we should give thanks to Him for “all things.”
I am spending time on this because what I see in our society, even in the lives of many Christians, is that we tend to pat ourselves on the back for our ideas, abilities, creativity, and ingenuity. Scientists and doctors seem to forget that they did not grow their own brains. Athletes seem to forget that they didn’t grow their own muscles, or provide the nerve pathways that lead to their incredible reflexes. Artists of all types seem also to not realize that they didn’t give themselves the ability to see the wondrous beauty of the world, or their unique ability to express that beauty in their particular disciple.
Thanksgiving began as a time to thank God for providing the needed food for those pilgrims so long ago, whether it came from the ground or from Indian acquaintances. Although some people disparage Thanksgiving because of the actions of a few in our past, the truth is God deserves the thanks of all people, the good and the bad, the righteous and the unrighteous. As it says in James 1:17 – “Every good gift is from God.”
If you know me at all then you know that I am of the Christian belief that the only way to have an eternal relationship with God is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, who alone is the way of salvation and the gift of eternal life. But even if you are not a Christian in the biblical sense, that does not preclude that you should thank God for all that you have, or thank God for each day, or thank God for every breath you take.
In fact it would be my prayer that as you develop the discipline to thank God daily that such activity would lead you to truly search for God. That would be wise, as in Jeremiah 29:13 God says that if you will search for Him with your whole heart that He will let you find Him. Without a doubt that would lead to the greatest of giving thanks to God.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.