But okay, there’s a little in there about the day.
In the United States, on November’s fourth Thursday, we celebrate a national day of thanksgiving.
Who’re we thanking? If you’re Christian, that’d be God. If you’re pagan, you don’t specifically thank anyone. You realize you’re expected to conjure up some feeling of thankfulness—you have a nice life, a decent job, good health, some loved ones, and got that
But even among the Christians who remember, “Oh yeah, we’re thanking God,” a lot of the thanking is limited to saying grace before the meal. “Good bread, good meat, good God let’s eat,” and he gets 1 percent of our focus, with the rest of the day centered on food. And if you dare try to make the day more God-focused, you’ll earn the outrage of everyone in the family who was really looking forward to the deep-fried turkey.
Okay. Let me say that if you want to practice more actual thanksgiving in your relationship with God, good. I’m all for that. So’s God. But that means way more than thanking God only once a year, on the government-approved day set aside for it.
Thanksgiving: The lifestyle.
“Thanksgiving” is used to translate the Hebrew yadá/“use one’s hand[s in praise],” and the Greek evharistía/“gratitude”—from which we get the word Eucharist. We offer our praise, gratitude, and thanks to God, for he is good, and his love lasts forever.
Every good thing ultimately comes from God.
Well, unless it’s not really a good thing. We gotta pay attention to the fruit of the “blessing” you experience. If it produces the Spirit’s fruit it’s totally a God thing; if it produces crap it’s not. Fr’instance a sudden windfall of money. That can go either way: Put it in the wrong hands and it can be toxic, and lead people astray. Put it in the right hands and it can bless everyone. Some so-called “blessings” are far from it. But when they are: Thank God.
Naturally we thank God for the stuff he’s done recently. But when you read the Psalms you’ll notice the authors thanked him for both recent and ancient stuff. They thanked God for rescuing them from current foes, and they thanked God for creating the cosmos, bailing out Abraham and Jacob, freeing Israel from Egyptian slavery, giving them the Law—for pretty much every event between earlier today, and trillions of years ago. We might think, “Well there’s no point in writing a thank-you card for that gift I got last Christmas; that was so long ago.” But there’s no such time limit on thanking God.
Nor should there be. Other people are far too fond of saying, “Get over it.” They want us to be done with our thanks, our regrets, or any of our emotions—mourning or rejoicing, whatever, move on. Too much sadness, or too much joy, creeps them out a little. They can’t handle compliments. They can’t handle criticism. They can’t handle emotions, period: They lack the Spirit’s fruit of
But God never tells us to stop being thankful, towards himself or others. Because we ought never stop. God is infinitely gracious, so there’s nothing wrong with trying to be infinitely appreciative. Every time we take holy communion, we thank Jesus for his self-sacrifice. That happened 20 centuries ago. So why can’t we thank God for stuff which happened 20 minutes ago, 20 days ago, 20 months ago, 20 years ago? What he’s done in the distant past still affects us in positive ways. Thank God for all of it.
And unlike our fellow humans, don’t worry about swelling God up with pride. He’s humble; he knows exactly who he is and what he deserves. He’s gentle; he’s not gonna go bonkers over our praise. And he totally deserves our thanks. And more.
Because the Psalmists say, “Thank the L
By way of infinite comparison, the L
Praying our thanks.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus actually didn’t bring up thanksgiving. Yeah, I know some people think the “Your kingdom come; your will be done” bit is thanksgiving. They’re interpreting it wrong. Those are requests, obviously, for God’s kingdom to come, for his will to be done. Not facetious brown-nosing “Gee I hope you get everything you want” in order to butter God up so he’ll grant the next several requests we pray.
So if you’re praying the Lord’s Prayer, good. But you’re gonna have to pray some thanksgiving in addition. I’ve heard Christians teach, “Jesus didn’t include thanksgiving in the Lord’s Prayer because people don’t need the reminder. We’ll naturally thank God on our own.” I wish that were true. But not all of us were raised to be courteous, nor taught to say “Thank you” where appropriate. Some of us are too self-centered and think we have a right to grace, whether it comes from God or other people. Many of us (and, I admit, myself included) take God too much for granted. So reminding ourselves to thank him: It needs to become a regular thing.
Keep track of when God answers your prayers, and thank him—whether you like his answers or not. Thank him for current answers; thank him for old answers. Remind yourself of what he’s done for you in the past. Keep that “attitude of gratitude” towards him—it’s really useful when it comes time to be grateful for others, or show grace to them as well.
This is a lifestyle, not just a once-a-year thing. So don’t upend your family’s Thanksgiving Day celebration by announcing to them, “We’re not really thankful enough, so this year we’re gonna forego the food and just talk about thankfulness.” I know Christians who’ve chosen to do this, and it’s so wrong. Thanksgiving Day, despite its religious origins, is a feast day: You feast because you’re celebrating God’s blessings. You don’t fast on a feast day! Fast other days. Heck, you know the next couple days, when every merchant in America wants you to empty your bank accounts and throw it at them? Skip that. Spend those days praying. Spend Thanksgiving Day rejoicing. ’Cause God’s blessed you so much.