Post by Pastor Tim – It always seemed a bit counter-cultural and spiritual for my family to go around the table and say what we were thankful for on Thanksgiving. Upon further reflection, though, this type of spirituality is actually readily accepted and even expected by most people. This is the type of spirituality that says “faith matters” but the object of our faith is not as important. This same type of spirituality would say that “thankfulness matters,” but not so much to who or what our thankfulness is directed.
Any of us can say that we are thankful for our home or our family – but who are we thanking when we declare those positive confessions on Thanksgiving?
This past week while teaching a group of underground seminary students, we had them practice the biblical work of mercy of doing good to each other. This looked very simple and practical, with the students doing things like getting hot water for someone else, cleaning the dormitory bathroom, and sharing their snacks with each other throughout the day. But they found that one of the keys to doing good biblically was the way they responded when thanks was given for what they had done.
For example, if I cleaned the dormitory bathroom and simply said, “You’re welcome,” when someone gave me thanks, then I’m really only directing people to look at me. In other words, even if I didn’t actually feel any pride or selfishness, I still took the credit for cleaning the bathroom. The thanks began and ended with me!
The truth of the matter is, I really didn’t want to clean the bathroom. I only did it because I felt like it was the right thing to do, according to the example set by Jesus in the Scriptures. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t have cleaned the bathroom, I would have left it for someone else to do. So, when I’m thanked for cleaning the bathroom, I could be honest and point to Jesus by saying,
You know, I really didn’t want to clean the bathroom at all. I felt like the Lord wanted me to do it. So don’t thank me, thank the Lord because without him I would have never cleaned the bathroom in the first place!
Let me give you another example so that you can better see the pattern. My friend recently gave a co-worker some money, because she noticed that her co-worker was experiencing some difficulties. This is what she said when her the co-worker thanked her:
I’m pretty selfish by nature, so to be honest with you, I wanted to keep that money for myself. Please thank God, because if it was simply up to me, I wouldn’t have given you the money. Through this gift of money, I feel like the Lord wants to remind you of His love and care for you.
Now that Thanksgiving has passed, let’s examine how we give thanks and, even more importantly, how we receive it. Is the object of your thanksgiving important, or is it more important to you that you are simply giving thanks? Or, when someone thanks you, do you turn their attention to Jesus, or does it start and end only with you?