The pleasant aromas wafting from the kitchen and the laughter experienced as family jokes are shared are common to many of us when we think of Thanksgiving. But when you get down to it, what is Thanksgiving about? Is it really just about turkey and watching the Lions blow a fourth quarter lead? Or is it something more? What are we really giving thanks for and, more importantly, to whom is that thanks directed?
Just last night I watched a little bit of the American Music Awards. As is common practice at many awards shows, many of the winners gave thanks to God "who made it all possible." And just what did He make possible? For them to shake their booty in videos watched by pre-teens on MTV and BET? For them to make millions of dollars so that they can buy homes and cars and jewelry while many live below the poverty line? When we give thanks to God, shouldn't there also be something in our lives that reflects that thanksgiving? Or is it really just enough to give thanks verbally though we live our lives any which way we choose?
II Corinthians 9:10-12 has this to say about thanksgiving:
"Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God."Did you catch what it says there? When we are generous towards others we are also expressing our thanks to God. Admittedly, it can be hard to show God that we're grateful for all he has done for us. Afterall, we can't see Him and He really doesn't need anything we can give. So, is a short prayer before a gluttonous feast the fourth Thursday of each November really enough? How can we really demonstrate to God our thanks to Him?
I think that II Corinthians 9:12 gives us the key. By being generous towards others -- through our time, our talents and our treasures -- we are showing our thanks to God. I think that God takes great joy when we serve others in His name. It could be leaving a nice tip for a waitress that is having a rough day. It could be serving your spouse or roommate by cleaning up the house when they're not expecting it. Or maybe you take the initiative to share with a friend how they can know God in a personal way.
I'm fairly convinced that God is most pleased with us when we demonstrate our thanks to Him through our service to others. I just don't think that He is that impressed with our public thanks to Him when our private lives are full of selfishness and greed. Our true thanks to Him is displayed through a life of selflessness and humility (see Philippians 2:1-13).
In light of all that God has done for us, let's seek to demonstrate our gratefulness this Thanksgiving through serving others. Extend some grace to that cousin that usually gets on your nerves. Give a few bucks to that uncle that's just getting back on his feet. Help your Gramma out in the kitchen. And you can help me out by praying for a Lions win...they certainly can use it :)