In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
The holiday we hail as Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. For many in our country, this day will be one where very little thanks takes place and even less giving. On this day families carve time out of their overbooked lives to assemble at a particular family member’s home and “give thanks”. I can’t speak for the whole country, but here in Missouri, increasingly it seems, more and more families gather together out of a sense of obligation rather than true affection. Thanksgiving Day often has the feel of a mandatory meeting- without pay. The average Midwest hostess stresses about the meal (admittedly, a gargantuan undertaking) far too much to enjoy the company that has congregated to partake of it. Men gorge themselves like swine, retire to whatever room has the TV, and attach themselves like dog ticks to the sofa, where they stare glassy eyed at the football game for the next three hours. Rarely a word is spoken by the after Thanksgiving dinner male except to bemoan the fact that he ate too much or to offer a one line comment about game. At the end of the day people disperse like refugees back to their homes to sleep off the turkey hangover.
Thanklessness: It is not unique to our nation or our generation. It is the plague of every tribe, tongue and time period. At the root of thanklessness is discontent. The expression of discontent is complaint. The result of complaint is death. When complaining is your hobby, burying becomes your occupation. The children of Israel offer us the greatest example of this in the Bible. The children of Israel were not thankful. They complained.
They complained (cried out) that they were under bondage in Egypt. God delivered them; delivered them by the greatest miracle anyone had ever witnessed-the parting of the Red Sea. Three waterless days later, at the bitter springs of Marah, the people complained against Moses saying, “What shall we drink?” God replied by making the bitter waters sweet for them to drink, then He sent them to camp at Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees. Two months later the whole congregation of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron for food, so the Lord sent Manna-bread from heaven. Just days later, at Rephidim, the parched people again complained against Moses saying, ‘Why is it that you have brought us up out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” Here, the Lord caused water to gush forth from the Moses stricken rock at Horeb; a lake of water it had to have been, to hydrate such a mass of people and animals. Only months later, essentially on the heels of the Lord giving them His Law (making them a special people) and His Person (dwelling in the newly constructed Tabernacle in their very midst), the people complained about the monotonous manna…“We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up, there is nothing at all except this manna (bread from heaven) before our eyes.” So the Lord promptly sent them quail. A very short time later, when the twelve spies returned from the Promised Land and told the story of a land of giant fruit inhabited by a race of giants, the faithless people complained against Moses and Aaron, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in the wilderness.” They would get their wish. Indeed that entire generation would wander and die in the wilderness. They would bury every single individual that was an adult when they had left Egypt. Most scholars estimate, that including women and children (the Bible only numbers males of age to go to war), 1,200,000 people were of that generation. From the point they failed to enter the Promised Land, they wandered for thirty eight more years. If you use a Jewish calendar of 360 days a year, that means that roughly 87 people died every day. If you extract 51 Sabbath’s a year-by Jewish Law on Sabbath days you could not work, and, touching a dead body rendered on ceremonially unclean-that would leave a total of 11, 742 days in which burying could take place. That equates to a whopping 102 funerals per day. If you figure 12 hours a day (maximum) for funerals, that’s right at eight funerals an hour, twelve hours a day, six days week, for thirty eight years.
“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road. (John Henry Jowett)
Thanklessness never views a situation from the proper perspective. God had arranged and intended but a short wilderness stay. It was intended to test and grow their faith. He would provide miraculously, they would see the power of the God they served, and He would get glory. As the surrounding nations watched His miraculous provision they would be drawn to Him through His relationship to this special nation He called His own. A lack of thanks changed all of that. A lack of thanks expanded their wilderness experience by 38 years. A lack of thanks killed their dream: the dream of entering The Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. They were still God’s people, but they lacked thanks, and subsequently they lacked faith, hope, love, prosperity, power, peace, rest and fruitfulness.
Thanklessness, at its heart, is simply ingratitude toward and discontent with the Lord. Romans 8:28 explains that “all things work together for the good to those who love God.” Colossians 1:17 tells us that “in Him all things consist.” He is holding everything-seen and unseen-together. Nothing comes into our life without His permission. Daniel the prophet understood and embraced this. As an old man, he quietly observed as the jealous satraps and governors plotted to have him exterminated. Knowing Daniel was a devout Jew and would neither worship nor pray to any other God than Jehovah, they tricked the recently enthroned King Darius into signing a decree stating that “whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O King, shall be cast into the den of lions (Daniel 6:7).” Daniel 6:10 tells us how this renowned prophet responded, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” No doubt, Daniel had meditated on, and long ago embraced, that phrase which the sweet Psalmist had proclaimed time and again, “O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: for His mercy endures for ever.” Daniel had learned to give thanks in everything, for He truly knew that God was the fountainhead of all situations and circumstances, pleasant or unpleasant, and that His Heavenly Father’s thoughts toward His children are “for good and not for not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11).” Therefore, Daniel chose to give thanks. Yes, thankfulness is a choice: a choice, it seems, of life or death.
No matter where life finds you this Thanksgiving, may I encourage you to choose to truly give thanks to the Lord. Thank God for His love: displayed in the sending of His Son, procured by the sacrifice of His Son, and obtained through belief in His Son. Thank God for the freedom we have in this country to worship Him openly and often. And as you pile on the Turkey and dressing, thank God for His abundant provision (and throw in some thanks that our nation’s bird is not the turkey. We have enough global image problems as it is. Furthermore, I just can’t let my mind travel down the turkey as a symbol of freedom/bald eagle for Thanksgiving dinner path.) Whoa! I have completely digressed. My prayer is that we will become a people who learn to in everything give thanks. It is God’s will for us.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving,