Thanksgiving: A Lifestyle, Not A Holiday
It is a sure sign that we are sinners that we tend to be more concerned about what we do than what we are. That is, our guilt or peace oftentimes is the fruit of our own judgment of how often we commit a known sin, less often grounded in what we think and how we feel. I may hate my brother, but if I can keep myself from killing him, well, how bad could I be?
In Romans 1 Paul is setting about the business of explaining the universal guilt of men before God. There he answers the telling question, “What about the innocent native in Africa who knows nothing of Christ?” by affirming that all men everywhere both know who God is, and reject that knowledge. Before we have done anything we stand guilty, if only because our eyes tell us there is a God and our hearts hate that truth. Paul then, however, in describing the universal sinful condition of all men outside of Christ adds this condemnation—neither were they grateful.
If it is true that all men exist—were made to glorify God—our gratitude failure is not simply a failure of manners, akin to forgetting to write a thank-you card for a gift. Instead it is like adultery, like murder, like cosmic rebellion. How so? Well, a failure to be grateful is grounded in the conviction that we are due better than what we have been given. We are all born with an expectation of a certain level of comfort, a certain level of fulfillment, a certain level of pleasure. When these exceed our expectations we believe all is right with the world. We have received our due. When they fall below our expectations, however, we grumble, we complain, we howl. We scratch our heads thinking something is wrong with the universe.
Something is wrong with the universe—us. The lost are, well, lost. They have not been changed. They do not have the Holy Spirit. They are on their own. But we complain just like them. We have the same set of expectations, and so mimic their grumbling. We, because we are worldly, look at the world and our place in it just like the world.
Gratitude, however, isn’t the fruit of happiness, but its root. When we give thanks, when we look at the world and our place in it realistically, remembering what we are due in ourselves, what we have, and all that we have been promised in Christ, we are astonished, overwhelmed. And therefore overjoyed.
I have with me four daughters who love me, and their Lord. I have three sons who love me, and their Lord. I have friends who love me, and their Lord. I have work that I love, that serves the Lord. I have a church where our Lord and His Word are preached. Most important of all, I am beloved of the Father. How could I ever even begin to think “It isn’t enough”? And, when I fail, my Father forgives me, His Spirit works in me, and I get better. Saint, thanksgiving isn’t a holiday to be observed, but a lifestyle to be practiced. Give thanks. And when you are done, do it again.