What Thanksgiving Is Actually About
If you have food, clothes, a roof over your head, you are richer than 75% of people in this world. If you have money in the bank, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy. We will spend Thursday eating too much, watching TV, maybe doing a few things that we want to do without really stopping to consider how good God has been to us!
by Dr. Henry Johnson
Last week, I was among some of my peers in the field of social
work. I was observing the way some behave. I stood and held the
door for about fifteen people and about three said thank you. I
began to think about how we take things and people for granted.
I didn't have to hold the door for anyone but I was taken for
granted by twelve people because they obviously thought nothing
about me holding the door for them. This also made me think
about how we treat God. He opens the doors for many
opportunities in our lives. He pours out blessings into our
lives but we take him for granted and many of us don't pause to
How many of you are ready to take time to thank God today? He has certainly blessed us, hasn't He? But I wonder how many people this year will be giving thanks with their lips, while their hearts remain pretty apathetic. We will spend Thursday eating too much, watching TV, maybe doing a few things that we want to do without really stopping to consider how good God has been to us! I think it is fitting on this Sunday before Thanksgiving to read the words of this song of worship. This psalm tells us that thanksgiving is not just praying as we wait for the food to cool off, or words of appreciation given once a year to pacify God. This psalm tells us it is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord!
I think it is ironic that the true meaning of Thanksgiving is often forgotten in the midst of our celebrations. Especially since Thanksgiving Day is a distinctive holiday. It doesn't commemorate a battle or anyone's birthday or anniversary. It is simply a day set aside to express our nation's thanks to God. In our text, the writer is expressing his confidence in the righteous judgment of God as he expresses his thanksgiving. His confidence goes beyond theory or formal theology because it comes from personal experience. He is able to look back through his history and see how God has brought him and his people through dangers seen and unseen. He can see how God has delivered them.
The writer penned this psalm as a hymn for the weekly observance of the Sabbath by the Jews. The psalmist begins by saying that it is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord. How is giving thanks to God a good thing? First of all, it allows us to show our appreciation to God for what he has done. It is only proper that we realize that all the good things that we enjoy have come from God. When someone gives us a gift, it is only right and proper that we thank them for their generosity. We owe God thanks because He has been good to us. The Bible sums this up in James 1:17 which says that Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights. Did you notice the word “every” in this verse? That means the big things and the little things. All the gifts that we will ever enjoy in this life from the pleasure of a summer day- to a beautiful snowy day- to the smile on our children's faces- to the home we have and the cars we drive they all are gifts God has given us.
It is true that everything good comes from God. There is another reason that it is good to give thanks to God in these verses, and that is because it will bring us delight. The psalmist says to “shew forth,” which means to proclaim. Then the psalmist talks about making music with the ten stringed instrument and harp which is acclamation. Then he writes the word solemn which means thoughtful. When we put these together, we that thanksgiving is not a duty but a delight and that our delight comes forth in the shout, in the playing of an instrument or a song and in our thinking on the goodness of God. The idea here is that as we consider God's goodness, our hearts are should spring up with praise and thanksgiving to God who is the giver of all the good things that we have received.
We need to express our thanksgiving with our words, our songs, and our thoughts. As God's children, we are to find joy in thanking Him! The psalmist invites us to look around at God's works, listen to His thoughts, and consider His love as a part of our thankful praise. In America, we live in an entitlement culture. We feel we are entitled to certain things just because we are Americans. We have so much wealth as a society that we tend to take for granted things like food, clothing, and shelter. Most people today consider a color television, VCR, and a DVD player to be necessities rather than luxuries. What we consider to be 'poverty' today is far above the quality of life that most people in the world enjoy today. From a material point of view, we're better off now than we've ever been. We don't see all these things we have as blessings, as gifts to us from a loving and gracious God. Instead we tend to view things like having enough food to eat, and having warm clothes to wear, and having a roof over our head as things we have a right to, things we deserve. Even though most people in the world see us as incredibly wealthy, we tend to view all of this abundance as what we are owed them rather than as a blessing.
I tell you we have something to praise God for and we ought to shout with praise for what he has given us. Alex Haley, the author of “Roots,” had an unusual picture hanging on his office wall. It was a picture of a turtle on top of a fence post. When asked about the picture and what it meant Alex Haley answered, “Every time I write something significant, every time I read my words and think that they are wonderful, and begin to feel proud of myself, I look at the turtle on top of the fence post and remember that he didn't get there on his own. He had help.”
That, my brothers and sister is the basis of Thanksgiving.
We need to remember that we got here with the help of God, and
that He is the provider of every blessing we have. We need to
take time to thank God for all He has done. God took every bone,
every joint, and He put us together. Thank you, Lord. He gave us
eyes that see, brains that think, and fingers that can pick
things up. Thank you, Lord. God made us, inside and out. He made
you the way He wanted you to be. And He made me the way He
wanted me to be.
And He is still making us. That is important, too. He's not satisfied with the unfinished product. He's not satisfied with our temper. He's not satisfied with the weak areas of our lives where we are giving into temptation. So He's still making us. He's still working on our lives. God is our maker and we are created in His image. Therefore give Him thanks for who you are. Give Him thank for what He has done.
This morning, what are you thankful for? If you had to write a list of what you are thankful for would it include your family and friends, good health, good job, the freedoms you have as an American? All of these things are good and we certainly should be thankful for all of them but I think we here in America have taken the most basic blessings of God for granted.
I recently received an email that gave these statistics from a world view. It began by saying, if you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of people in this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people in the world. If you can attend church without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than three billion people in the world. And if your parents are still alive and still married, you are very rare, even in the United States. We are truly blessed by a gracious and wonderful God.
My dear brothers and sisters, God has been good to us. We have had some good days and we have had some bad days. We have had to say some good-byes but we are still here. We have a reasonable portion of health and strength. We have a place to sleep and food to eat. We ought to give God some praise for the blessings He has given us. Most of us drove here today. We walked into the sanctuary on our own. We ought to say thank you. Every day should be a day of thanksgiving because the Lord has been good to us. We need to learn to count our blessings one by one and stop taking them for granted. We are truly blessed and some of us are blessed by association. We need to be like the Psalmist and realize that it is good to give thanks unto the Lord. Somebody ought to say Oh give thanks unto the Lord.
Just Keeping It Real!