HomeOpinionDOOLEY NOTED: Why Thanksgiving matters

DOOLEY NOTED: Why Thanksgiving matters

The week of Thanksgiving affords us the opportunity to unplug, evaluate, and offer thanks for the numerous blessings in our lives in a way that the pace of our normal routines doesn’t always allow. I have a lot to be thankful for. My relationship with Jesus is growing. I find myself in a place that I deeply love, surrounded by people who enrich my life, leaving my family happier than we have ever been. A wonderful wife and five healthy children fill each of my days with joy despite the typical trials that come and go. In addition to these personal blessings, I pastor a healthy congregation that has me enthusiastic about my calling in a way that resembles my earliest years of ministry. Simply put, life is good. But why should you care about my blessings? And why would I take the time to share these personal realities here? The answer lies in one of the most neglected disciplines found in Scripture. According to the Bible, thanksgiving should be more than a holiday on our calendars. A day devoted to thankfulness is helpful to be sure, but God desires for the pulse of our hearts to beat with the rhythm of gratitude and thanksgiving. Even with a cursory reading of God’s Word, the theme of thankfulness emerges. King David instructed, appointed, and admonished leaders in Israel to offer thanks to God after settling the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 16). He tells the people to make God’s deeds known (16:8), to speak of God’s wonders (16:9), to glory in God’s name (16:10), to remember God’s work (16:12), to proclaim the good tidings of God’s salvation (16:23), and to ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name (16:28-29).  Then, at a high point of praise, David admonishes: “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting (1 Chronicles 16:34).” Neither time nor space will permit me to cite all the verses extolling the virtue of thankfulness. My personal favorite simply reads “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:18).” But why does God care so much about our expressions of appreciation? At the risk of being overly simplistic, two primary reasons reveal why God prioritizes a heart of thanksgiving.  To live without gratitude expresses two egregious mentalities that are fundamentally opposed to Christianity. First, thanklessness is an expression of idolatry. Candidly, we are often guilty of celebrating what God gives rather than God Himself. So much of modern Christianity reflects a bait and switch that magnifies the gifts of life above the Giver of life. We may not worship idols made of wood, but we live with an arrogance that hopes in health, possessions, and success more than God our Father. Diagnosing our spiritual ailment, 1 Timothy 6:17 forcefully commands:  “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches . . .” This verse uncovers the universal temptation to place our hope in the temporal realities of earth rather than the eternal God of heaven. What is the remedy? Our verse continues, “. . . but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”  In other words, learn to appreciate the blessings of life, but put your hope in God rather than His gifts. Continually giving thanks enables us to distinguish between what we enjoy and who we worship. Second, thanklessness is an expression of atheism. Each year around Thanksgiving I always chuckle when I read about atheist and humanist groups attempting to express appreciation to no one in particular. Some will merely voice gratitude to family and friends (we can learn much about the value of esteeming the people in our lives). The notion of secular grace, however, leaves many worshipping the universe or luck in general. Not only is this logically and theologically inadequate, but it is also a colossal waste of time. Giving thanks, by its very nature, requires that someone be there to receive it. Thanklessness is a form of independence from God, which is nothing more than practical atheism in disguise. Giving thanks not only reminds us that God is real, but also that He is both active and benevolent in our lives. So, join me this week, and every week, in giving thanks to the Lord for the magnificent work of His hands. Count your blessings and voice your love and appreciation to the Father above (Psalm 105:1). If you find yourself in the midst of a difficult trial or burden, stop to thank God for the promise that He is working all things together for your good (Rom. 8:28). On your good days and on your bad days, remember the will of God and give Him thanks through everything (Eph. 5:20). God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving! Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels.
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