Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving Thanks - Part II

See earlier post for the history and true meaning of Thanksgiving Day.

We should be thanking God even in the midst of the problems we have to endure, because consciously giving thanks helps us as well as is the right thing to do. Why? Because if you don’t get the things you want, think of the things you don’t want that you don’t get. Will you commit to pass on to the next generation the true meaning of the holiday by your example and your teaching?

We Don’t Deserve What We Have

One of the reasons people don’t give thanks as they should is that they have a sense of entitlement. Our sense of entitlement and our lack of gratitude to God makes me think: how disappointed God must be in us. We rarely show our gratitude to God for all the blessings we have received – more than we ever deserve (despite what we might think). Part of that lack of appreciation is our own sense of entitlement, and part of it is either attitude or negligence.

Giving Thanks Despite Problems

Some people, of course, just don’t feel blessed – maybe they even feel cheated. Maybe they’ve got poor health, a terrible work situation, a struggle to make ends meet, they recently lost a loved one, have family problems, or maybe a victim of some kind – the list goes on. We’re quick to blame God when things go wrong, but slow to give God the credit, let alone thanksgiving, when things go right. Yet the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. NRSV

Of course Paul is saying we should give thanks specifically to God, not just to have some general attitude of thankfulness, and despite our circumstances. Paul explains how it is possible for him to say we should “give thanks in all circumstances” in Philippians 4:11b-13, where he writes:

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. NRSV

St. Paul, as we all know, had his share of hardships, yet knew he had a lot to be thankful for. We all endure hardships, problems, grieving, and suffering at one point or another – some unfortunately more than others, it seems. Yet like Paul, we still have a lot to be thankful for if we think about it.

Do you give thanks to God, despite your circumstances?

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