“No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has.”  —Henry Ward Beecher

 

thankfulThe question we ask and are asked following that holiday in late November is, of course, something to the effect of: “Did you have a nice Thanksgiving?” What do we mean by the question and how do we typically answer? Aren’t we really wanting to know what you did, where you went, who you were with with, what did you see, and perhaps most importantly, what did you eat? For many of us, there are really good reasons we can recite that made for a “good thanksgiving.”

The question I ask myself is not whether I had sufficient reason to thank God, but whether in fact I actually thanked God. Is the day merely for taking time off, eating and celebrating, and maybe shopping for bargains? I want to suggest that having reasons for thankfulness, and even feeling thankful, isn’t the same as actually thanking God. The Gospel writer Luke records a story of ten desperately ill, outcast men with a dreaded, consuming, contagious disease. From a distance they cry out to the passing Jesus for help, and from a distance he grants their plea. In their joy (and thankfulness?) they scurry off, enjoying their blessing. But there is one of them—only one—who stops, turns around and comes back to the author of his joy and has an intimate face-to-face encounter with God in the flesh. Jesus’ comment about Him, rings true about all of us, “Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” (a hated Samaritan) This particular blessed man, the small minority of the blessed ones, got to meet Jesus, got to be included in holy scripture, and had his joy and thankfulness made full in personal relationship.

For even when our day seems dull and ordinary and small. Even when we bear a burden or frailty, do we then have no reason for thanksgiving? Have you never noticed that often people with the least can seem more content and happy than the ones wreathed in luxuries? These odd ones seem to thank God for things and in things that mystify us! Why aren’t they mad at God? They have this inexplicable Attitude of Gratitude that doesn’t seem to need a reason. These are the ones who demonstrate the deeper realities of the sufficiency of grace. These can glory even in their weaknesses. Why? Because they get to experience God’s strength. They get to possess joy and peace when everyone else’s joy and peace is absolutely defined and dependent upon favorable circumstances alone. Is it possible that we want stuff from God more than we want God himself?

I submit that, in fact, you cannot experience joy in your life without thanksgiving. Furthermore, I suggest that it is only the truly humbly thankful one who has the grid to even perceive God, much less receive Him and enjoy Him.

The Apostle’s letter to the Roman believers tells us, right there in the beginning, that the proof of the fallen nature of humanity is that we do not personally acknowledge His obviousness—and that, though there is so much to actually thank Him for—we tend to refuse. The result, says Paul, is a foolish, ignorant, and darkened way of understanding the world and the One Who made it.

So, how was your Thanksgiving? Or better, what is the expression of your thankful heart? Did you set aside all else and bring it all personally and directly to God? Give thanks. You’ll get far more from the transaction than you gave.

 

“Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.”  —Robert Louis Stevenson

 

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