My Thoughts on Thanks-giving and Thankfulness
I believe it is good for Americans to celebrate a holiday that is geared towards being thankful. And I hate to be a pessimists (normally I’m not) about the fact that the Thanksgiving holiday, although celebrated, mostly lacks substance from the many who celebrate it. Many can say “Thanks,” “Thank-you,” “I’m Thankful for you,” “I’m Grateful,” etc. Nevertheless, thankfulness, giving-thanks is not necessarily words, it is actions; it is a lifestyle. Thankfulness is rooted in the heart and flows out of life. Even though it is rooted in the heart, thankfulness begins with perception and belief about what you deserve.
This is where, for many Americans, thankfulness becomes quintessentially difficult. For although the belief about what we deserve varies, the belief about what we deserve still exist. Many believe that they deserve a home, owning a home, a car, a job, a decent/high wage, good health, excellent health care, fair treatment, justice, a nice family, and the ability to buy nice clothes and materials.
The truth is, we deserve none of those things. When you begin with the premise that we deserve those good things, the premise is faulty. It is faulty because we do not deserve good things due to the fact that we, in and of ourselves, are not good. How can evil, wicked, sinful, depraved, unholy, unrighteous people perceive they deserve good? If someone wants to argue that we are good and not evil, and that we deserve good things—here is what I would argue: The simple fact that we, in this world, face injustice, oppression, evil, wickedness, pain, suffering, and death exemplifies the by-product of human substance and existence. We experience what is at the core of our humanity—bad, which is the opposite of good. We are all at fault to what this world has become!
However, there are glimmers of good and right throughout our world because God is still at work in the world, for he is passionate about redeeming and restoring this fallen, bad, damaged created order. This good we see and experience makes us long for more of the good. In fact, without God in the picture, many begin to feel entitled to the good. This longing for good becomes a idol; an idol (god) that leaves people dissatisfied with people and systems, bitter and angry at the world, complaining about everything (and how everything is unfair), unfulfilled and lacking, and pessimistic about what they don’t have, but long to have. In essence, this idol leads to an ungrateful society and culture. Case in point—look at our botched up political system and the polls that come out describing people’s feeling towards the president and congress. And most of the fight coming out of congress and our political system is how we can give people more, who feel entitled, without going farther into the financial abyss of debt. Our society and culture has a major problem—it is called Ungrateful. This attitude flows from a greedy, selfish, entitled, and distorted vision of what “we all” really deserve.
We will never be grateful or thankful unless we understand that we deserve nothing—more specifically nothing good. We are sinners by nature, who, unless the gospel of Jesus Christ penetrates and saves us, live antagonistically towards a holy, omnipotent, righteous God. In Luke 16:11-19 only one of the ten lepers that Jesus healed came back to give him thanks. The other nine went there merry way, failing to give thanks. And I would assume, although not specified in the text, that they failed to give thanks because they felt they deserved to be healed. The leper who came back not only was a leper, but was a Samaritan who had been healed by a Jew. He understood there was no way he should have been healed, especially by Jesus, a Jew.
Until we understand we deserve nothing good, will we ever begin to live a grateful life! Essentially, thankfulness flows from an understanding of grace and mercy. Happy Thanksgiving and may we live thankful lives!