Thanksgiving: An Attitude

It’s that time of year again—Thanksgiving. Most of us will spend time with family, eat way too much food, watch some football, and then go back to our lives. In addition, we’ll talk about the importance of being thankful. We’ve heard that line for many years, haven’t we? We’ll probably look at passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:18. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We’ll also probably talk about how good we have it, but when Thanksgiving is over, we’ll quickly forget.

So why are we not thankful all year long? Why is this such a struggle? We know how naturally selfish we are. Scripture abounds with examples of this problem. Just a cursory reading of the Bible will make this point clear. But is it really that bad?

I had two independent conversations with people this week. Both centered around the same topic: food. We all agreed that the attitude people have toward food in this country is concerning. We seem to think that every time we sit down to eat we must have some kind of new experience or enchanting event. It used to be that people ate because they were hungry and they needed fuel to keep them going. As a child I remember regularly having a pot of boiled cabbage for dinner, and if the finances were going well we got a few hotdogs cut-up in the pot. It wasn’t a lot, but it fed us. We didn’t know how little it was until we got older and were able to afford more. We never went hungry, but sandwiches were a regular part of eating. Spam wasn’t uncommon in my house. Yummy! Going to get a hamburger from a fast-food restaurant was an absolute treat. Now eating out is the norm. It’s also the norm for people to complain if they can’t afford cable or a smart phone.

I used to travel quite extensively for work. To see the abject poverty of other nations was blinding. I knew I didn’t have a lot growing up compared to many others in America, but now I recognize I’m rich. There’s something about comparing that either makes you grateful or greedy. When you compare yourself to those who have little, you tend to feel like a king. When you compare yourself to those who have more, you tend to act like a churlish child. Israel would have loved all the options we have today to give us comfort during travel. Israel had to settle with walking, manna, and quail. Can you imagine eating chicken and bread, three meals a day, every day of the week? Some of us would end up in a mental hospital over such a thing. We can’t even handle a few meals at a retreat center for a couple of days. We, as Christians, should know better.

So how do we fix this? It may be that it will be fixed by default. As we look at the history of this rich nation, we’re recognizing that the wealth may be nearing the end. Then what? Will we complain against God for having so little? I can’t help but think we will since we’re complaining in our wealth today.

This is an attitude problem more than anything else. We need to guard our hearts with thanksgiving. When we thank God for all we have, it protects our hearts and attitudes against complaining. Will you thank Him in all circumstances? God has given us more than any nation in the history of mankind. Will you be grateful? It’s yours to decide.