Is it just me, or have you noticed how we seem to go straight from Halloween to Christmas, almost bypassing Thanksgiving altogether? That is unfortunate because not only is Thanksgiving an important American holiday that reflects our heritage, but individuals, families and churches need one day set aside for the purpose of giving thanks to the Lord and acknowledging that all that we have is from Him.
Is the giving of thanks only on this one day enough? Certainly it is not, but it is a good place to start.
There are numerous benefits to the giving of thanks. Please allow me to mention only a few.
First, the giving of thanks to the Lord is preventative medicine for developing a critical spirit. One with a critical spirit is constantly criticizing others. He tends to see what others are doing wrong and not right, and is constantly finding fault. A person with a critical spirit can always do anything and everything better than the one he is criticizing.
Instead of finding faults in others, why not begin to thank God for them and pray for them. It is difficult to criticize someone you are thanking God for, whether it be government officials, church leaders and even family and friends.
Those that were closest to the late Billy Graham said they never heard him speak a critical word about anyone. Does that mean that Dr. Graham never observed something in others that could not be criticized? I suspect that a man who lived so long and traveled so extensively encountered those he could have criticized, but he chose to keep those observations to himself.
Another benefit of giving thanks is that of learning to be content with what we have. By the time you read this, the collection week for Operation Christmas Child will have just concluded. This ministry of Samaritan’s Purse collects literally millions of shoeboxes filled with small toys, school supplies, hygiene items, etc. The reports indicate that the kids who receive them are absolutely overwhelmed with joy, appreciation and thanksgiving.
Now, imagine how the average American child would react if one of these shoe boxes was all he or she received for Christmas. I suspect most would complain and be very ungrateful. And why is this? Perhaps one reason is that so many kids have been spoiled and been trained to expect lavish gifts at Christmas time. Many of them have not been raised to be thankful and thus content.
There are many reasons the “Greatest Generation” is considered to be such. One of those is that they were grateful for what they had. That generation, who is slowly ebbing away, lived through the Great Depression when millions were out of work, and poverty was the norm of the day from rural areas to metropolitan cities. They learned to be grateful just to have something to eat and a roof over their heads.
That generation also survived WWII. Those stateside had to deal with rationing of almost everything. And of course those called into service had to cope with the horrible conditions that go with war. Those who survived were grateful just to be alive. That generation knew how to get by on what they had and were thankful for what they had.
We all could learn a lesson from that generation about being thankful instead of complaining. Instead of complaining about not having a bigger and more up to date house, we should be thankful that we have a house period. We should appreciate the fact that we have a roof over our head, not to mention indoor plumbing and electricity. Instead of complaining that we don’t have a newer and nicer car, we should give thanks for the car that we do have, and that it is paid for.
Career missionaries to foreign nations and those who have done short term mission work can testify that some of the happiest people in the world are those who have very little in the way of material possessions. I suspect they have learned the secret of contentment and to give thanks in all things.
Parents, are you teaching your children to be thankful? It starts with the small things like saying “thank you”, or even writing a thank you note for a gift or some act of kindness shown by another. Does your family take time to say a prayer of thanks to the Lord when you sit down to a meal, whether at home or in a restaurant?
Is one day of giving thanks a year enough? Of course not, but it is a good place to start.
“For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” I Timothy 6:7-8.
Chip Warren is the past president of the Albertville Ministerial Fellowship.