Archive for the ‘Thanksgiving’ Category
Posted on November 21st, 2012 by David Burnette
G.K. Chesterton once said, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.”
Chesterton’s comment reminds us that giving thanks is directly tied to how we view God. Gratitude implies that we have been dependent on something, or better yet, Someone else.
Yesterday we looked at how serious it is not to give thanks to God in light of what Paul says in Romans 1:21 (You can view that here). Today we’ll consider what it is that we’re saying when we express gratitude to God. This seems appropriate enough the day before Thanksgiving.
Even though we are commanded to give thanks throughout the Scriptures, the idea of being thankful can easily slide into the same category as being kind and sharing; you know, less important truths that seem appropriate for young children. These commands can start to sound more like good manners than the fruit of the Spirit. This is unfortunate.
Whether or not we are grateful to God says a lot about how we view Him and about how we view our circumstances. For instance, if we believe that God is sovereign over every detail of the universe, which includes every detail of our own lives, then we will not view the blessings in our lives as things that “just happen.” Worse yet, we won’t look at what we’ve attained and quietly congratulate ourselves in the recesses of our own hearts.
If we are thinking in biblical, God-centered categories, we’ll acknowledge that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17), that everything from our salvation to even the ability to think and breathe comes from God’s hand. Jesus memorably speaks of God’s all-encompassing sovereign care when He reminds His disciples that even sparrows falling to the ground do so because God wills it. In fact, the hairs of their heads were numbered (Matt 10:29-30). And so are ours.
When we are confident that this kind of sovereignty belongs to God, we will (or at least we should) give all the credit to Him for everything in our lives. We’ll acknowledge that we have not been the authors of our own fate. The charade of pretending as if we are in charge of our own lives will be seen for what it is. We’ll take to heart Paul’s question to the proud Corinthians: “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7)
When we give thanks we are in essence declaring, “I am not God.” It’s an admission: “Someone else has provided for me, cared for me, sustained me, rescued me, forgiven me, and given me life.” This perspective helps explain why the failure to give thanks is such a big deal in Romans 1:21. To withhold praise and thanksgiving from God is to ignore the One from whom all blessings flow. It is to turn your nose up at Sovereign Majesty and declare yourself king. It is to declare yourself God.
As we celebrate this Thanksgiving, let’s be reminded that we are completely dependent on God. And as we reflect on His undeserved goodness, let’s not utter a forced “thank you.” Instead, let’s rejoice in a God who is lavish in His grace, abundant in His provision, and reliable in His faithfulness. Let’s acknowledge that He is God and we are not. For then we will find ourselves spontaneously obeying Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
You aren’t God. So give thanks.
Posted on November 20th, 2012 by David Burnette“Say ‘thank you’,” we constantly remind our children.
- Whether it’s an expensive Christmas present or simply having a door held open, we want our kids to express thanks when they are the recipient of something good. After all, few things are more off-putting than ingratitude.
When a musical artist receives an award, we expect him or her to come to the microphone and thank a long list of people. When the winning quarterback is interviewed after the game, we want to hear him say, “I just wanna thank my offensive line and our coaches. I couldn’t have done it without them.” We know instinctively that giving others credit is an appropriate response.
With Thanksgiving coming in a couple days, it’s a good time to reflect on the real significance of, well, giving thanks. There’s actually more at stake here than you might think, and I’m not just talking about thanking your mom for preparing a fabulous meal on Thursday afternoon (though you should definitely do that). Your gratitude, or lack thereof, is eternally significant.
Later this week, you are likely to hear news anchors, NFL analysts, and everyone else under the sun talking about how grateful they are for what they have. The cynical side of me takes this kind of talk as code for “I’m really glad I’ve got my stuff.” That’s not always a fair assessment, since even unbelievers have a sense of gratitude to God (however they define Him) for what they’ve been given.
Nevertheless, the fact that some level of gratitude is recognized by (almost) everybody as a good thing shouldn’t cause us to forget this important biblical truth: It is a serious thing not to give thanks to God.
In Romans 1:18-32 Paul is building his case that every human being stands under God’s judgment and is therefore in need of His saving righteousness in Jesus Christ, a gift that can only be received by faith (Rom 3:21-26). Paul tells us in Romans 1:21 why God’s wrath is unleashed against the Gentiles: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him…” Did you catch that last phrase?
The Gentiles stand under God’s wrath, and a part of the reason is that they don’t give Him thanks. God gives them life and sustains them at every moment, yet they refuse to acknowledge Him. That’s evil. That’s ingratitude.
The failure to give God thanks is far more than bad manners; it’s rebellion. It’s a refusal to acknowledge the authority and glory of our Creator. Instead of ascribing praise to God and submitting to His rightful rule, we turn to idols. We worship ourselves or some aspect of God’s created order other than the All-Glorious Creator Himself. We don’t acknowledge that everything we have comes from God. And to make things worse, we do all this willingly.
Someone may object, “Non-Christians don’t know God, so why should they give thanks?” But remember how Paul starts verse 21, “For although they knew God…” In other words, unbelievers are aware of their Creator, but they won’t give Him His due praise.
Knowing God as Paul talks about it in Romans 1:21 doesn’t mean having a saving relationship with Him; rather, it speaks of the knowledge that all people have of God’s “eternal power and divine nature” (Rom 1:20). Yet, despite this knowledge, unbelievers “suppress the truth” (Rom 1:19). That is, they seek to remove God from their mind, pushing aside what they know of His character and their obligation to obey Him. And the result of this rebellion is that such people become “futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom 1:21).
With these things in mind, we ought to be sobered at the prospect of not giving thanks to God. Only pagans live with such ingratitude. It is our duty, and it should be our delight, to give thanks to One who is so worthy. This is true on Thanksgiving and every other moment throughout the year.
Tomorrow we’ll consider more about the significance of our giving thanks to God. For now let’s remember this as Thanksgiving draws near: It is a serious thing not to give God thanks.
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