Thanksgiving - what a wonderful holiday! A wonderful time to gather with friends and family, enjoy great food, watch a parade and of course some football.
But why? Why do we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving? Is it simply a nice fall tradition - or is there more?
Unfortunately, Thanksgiving has become a holiday largely focused on food and football, with little thought given to its original purpose. And sadly, many are as focused on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and “getting more”, than they are focused on being thankful for what they already have.
Most of us understand that the tradition began with an early version of the holiday in 1621 with the Pilgrims. But, how many of us recall that the first Thanksgiving included only 50 of the original 100 who came over on the Mayflower? Already weak from the long voyage from England, they then suffered through a harsh winter. As a result, in the first year, half of the original Pilgrims who made the trip from England died due to disease and starvation.
Yet, despite these incredible and devastating losses, those who had survived stopped to give thanks to God for His provision.
But would I have done the same? Would I be thankful to God after suffering such incredible hardships and loss? But this perhaps begs the reverse question: if I am not experiencing serious hardship, what excuse do I have for not being thankful for God’s blessings in my life? And, if we have abundance, as an expression of our thanksgiving to God, should we not also consider ways to share with those less fortunate?
Consider what Paul tells us in II Corinthians 8 where he speaks of the generosity of the Macedonians. He says in verse 3 that “They gave, not only what they could afford, but far more.” He goes on to say that “They did it because they wanted to, and not because of nagging on Paul’s part, but instead begging Paul to take their money so they could share in the joy of helping believers in Jerusalem.”
What about those we know who are suffering hardship? Perhaps those as close as in our own community, or those in far away places? Is there a way we can help? And if there is, are we willing?
Paul then says in verse 7 “I want you to be leaders in the spirit of cheerful giving.” He then speaks of the example given by our Lord Jesus, who was so very rich, yet in order to help us, He became so very poor.
Continuing in verse 12, he says “If you are really eager to give, then it isn’t important how much you have to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you don’t have.”
Then in chapter 9, he encourages the Corinthians to follow the Macedonian example telling them “It was your enthusiasm that stirred many to begin helping...with all the money they collected.”
In verse 7 he tells them “Cheerful givers are the ones God prizes. God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more, so there will not only be enough for everything you need, but plenty left over to give joyfully to others. The godly man gives generously to the poor.”
He finishes in verse 11 “God will give you much so that you can give much and when those in need receive your gifts they will break into thanksgiving.”
Wow! How exciting it would be to think that those we help would break into thanksgiving! What joy that would bring! What a wonderful way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year - by sharing with and giving to those in need!
In a parable in Matthew 25, Christ issues a challenge saying He was
hungry and thirsty and you fed Him and give Him drink. Those listening responded saying “When did we see you hungry or thirsty?”. Christ answered, saying “To the extent that you did it even to the least of them, you did it to Me.”
Simply said, we serve God and express our thanksgiving to Him, in part, by sharing with those less fortunate and in need. Hebrews 10 tells us to consider how we might stimulate one another to love and good works Let us consider how we might do that this Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving’s original purpose can only truly continue when we
intentionally stop and express our thanksgiving to God for His continued blessings.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us recall the old children’s hymn which reminds us to “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done.” In this way, we can truly celebrate Thanksgiving to our God!
More to come...
Do you have questions about managing your finances from a Biblical perspective?
For guidance feel free to call Kent Anderson at (239)596-8600, x254.