Published November 11, 2014
"Thanks A Lot"
Turkey with all the dressing!
Mashed potatoes and gravy!
So what does that make you think about? Celebrating Thanksgiving, of course.
But if that's what you think of first when you think of "Thanksgiving," you're missing the point. Thanksgiving is one holiday that says what it's all about, very clearly, right there in its name. It's a time for giving thanks.
But thanks to whom?
Thanks to the baker for the pumpkin pie?
Thanks to the turkey farmer for the turkey?
Thanks to grandma for the mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes?
Well, yes, they should be thanked. But the Thanksgiving holiday was founded as and should still be seen as fundamentally a time to give thanks to God for His many, many blessings in our lives. And if you're not feeling very blessed, you really haven't been paying attention.
I'm not a fan of the Simpsons, that long-running and often sacrilegious cartoon series on TV. I'm told, though, that on one episode, Bart Simpson sits down to a meal with his family. It's his turn to give thanks. But he says something like this: "Lord, my dad earned the money to pay for this food. My mom worked for hours to cook it. What did you do, God? Thanks a lot for nothing!"
Although one can have many serious issues with the Simpsons and their worldview, Bart this time captured the way all too many people really feel. Everything they have, they figure, is the result of hard work on their part. They slaved away at their jobs to earn the money to buy things. They earned it. It's theirs. No thanks to anybody else. You've undoubtedly encountered such people.
That reminds me of Jesus' parable of the rich man who had worked hard and accumulated many crops, which translated into great riches. He had so much that he said, "I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.'" But remember what God said to him? "You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?" (Luke 12:18-20.)
This man, although rich by the world's standards, had forgotten the One who had given him the ability to accumulate such wealth. He figured did it all himself. God had nothing to do with it. "Thanks a lot for nothing!"
Such an attitude is a serious insult to God. After all, God is ultimately the source of everything we have. In the familiar words of the Doxology, "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!" James 1:17 reminds us that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights." That's why 1 Thess. 5:18 says, "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
There you have it. It is God's will that we thank Him. And don't you want always to obey God's will for your life?
What's more, Paul, writing in 2 Timothy 3, lists a series of characteristics of end-time sinners. Among them is this one: "unthankful." That's right there in the list along with "blasphemers" and "despisers of those that are good." I surely don't want to be included on such a list.
Recently I came across an illustration that struck me because of its "radio connection." A little girl, whose father was a radio announcer, was invited to a friend's house for dinner. When they sat down to eat, the mother asked the little girl if she would honor them by saying the blessing. It delighted the little girl, and having seen her father at work many times, she knew exactly what to do. She cleared her throat, checked her wristwatch, and, loudly and clearly, said, "This food, friends, is coming to you through the courtesy of Almighty God."
She got it right! Everything we have does come to us through the courtesy of Almighty God. Why are we so quick to forget this?
Remember the man who brought his son to Christ, saying the boy was possessed of an unclean spirit? Christ said if the man believed, all things would be possible. The man said, "Lord, I believe: help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24.) Perhaps we should say something similar: "Lord, we are thankful. Help (and forgive) our unthankfulness."
In American English, the expression "thanks a lot" can be taken at least two very different ways. It can be taken in Bart Simpson's usage, meaning "thanks for nothing," which is the world's way of looking at God's provisions. Or it can be taken literally to mean, "thank you for a whole lot of things." Everything, in fact. And that's what we should be saying to our Heavenly Father this Thanksgiving and every day, for that matter.
Remember daily Psalm 107:1: "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good."
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First published November, 2006
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