We have progressed so far in our culture that we now have to temper our Thanksgiving with mourning. I actually read this on my Facebook feed yesterday... "It is good to give thanks. But let take caution in what we are thankful for. To be thankful for anything that has (directly or indirectly) caused displacement, death, dehumanization, suffering or isolation to anyone else is a form of narcissism that denies the validity of my neighbor’s life."
I have to admit, reading that felt like eating a Krispy Kreme doughnut followed by a persimmon. I don't think that is the filter through which we should offer thanksgiving, and in fact, that barely resembles or gives chance for thanksgiving.
So if you aren't careful to only give thanks for things that have no connection to sin, you may be invalidating your neighbor's life? Yes, there is a movement in our culture that is trying to steal the joy of thankfulness by sterilizing it. Let me see how this works. I can only be thankful for things that have not "directly or indirectly caused displacement, death, dehumanization, suffering, or isolation to anyone else." (First, I probably need to know what 'indirectly' means. But I won't drown in the details.) Let's play this out.
I would be thankful for my house, but it is probably built on land once roamed by the Indians, or Native Americans, or whatever I should call them. (displacement)
I would be thankful for my clothing, but I'm sure some of it was made by people making a few cents a day in some other part of the world. (suffering)
I would be thankful for the food I will eat this afternoon, but I'm sure that by my buying it, someone else is not eating it. (suffering)
I would be thankful for my wife, but I'm sure she moved from her family when she agreed to marry me. (displacement)
I would give thanks for my children, but I have undoubtedly done and said hurtful things along the way that made them feel less than who they are. (dehumanization)
I would give thanks for this great country, but people died (and continue to die) in the process of securing our freedom. (death)
I would give thanks for the safety I enjoyed this year, but I realize that in order for me to be safe, some people had to be in prison. (isolation)
I would give thanks for my salvation, but Jesus went through great injustice in order to give it to me. And many believers have lost their life in order to make sure the message went forth. (death, suffering, displacement, dehumanization, isolation)
All of a sudden, Thanksgiving is a morbid holiday. In fact, I wouldn't even call it a holiday at this point. Let's all join at the funeral home and cry about our horrible existence.
Is this really what God had in mind when He placed a high value on the giving of thanks and the command/encouragement to give thanks? Can we only give thanks for things that are in no way associated with negative things? Because in my life, some of the things I am most thankful for would fall into the 'beauty from ashes' category. What does God say about the giving of thanks?
The word 'mourn' (or variations of it) is found approximately 130 times in the Bible. The word 'thanks' (or variations of it) is found approximately 150 times in Scripture. Interestingly enough, mourning only shows up about 15 times in the New Testament. But the idea of thanksgiving is there about 45 times. But out of all of those times, the two concepts are only found together less than 5 times in the whole Bible.
Here is a taste of what God thinks of thanksgiving...
When you sacrifice a thank offering to the Lord, sacrifice it so that you may be accepted. - Leviticus 22:29
Give thanks to Yahweh; call on His name; proclaim His deeds among the peoples. - 1 Chronicles 16:8
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever. And say: “Save us, God of our salvation; gather us and rescue us from the nations so that we may give thanks to Your holy name and rejoice in Your praise. - 1 Chronicles 16:34-35 (There was usually death involved when God saved His people, by the way)
They are also to stand every morning to give thanks and praise to the Lord, and likewise in the evening. - 1 Chronicles 23:30
The trumpeters and singers joined together to praise and thank the Lord with one voice. They raised their voices, accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and musical instruments, in praise to the Lord: For He is good; His faithful love endures forever. The temple, the Lord’s temple, was filled with a cloud. - 2 Chronicles 5:13
Then he consulted with the people and appointed some to sing for the Lord and some to praise the splendor of His holiness. When they went out in front of the armed forces, they kept singing: Give thanks to the Lord, for His faithful love endures forever. - 2 Chronicles 20:21
Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites who performed skillfully before the Lord. They ate at the appointed festival for seven days, sacrificing fellowship offerings and giving thanks to Yahweh, the God of their ancestors. - 2 Chronicles 30:22
Then I brought the leaders of Judah up on top of the wall, and I appointed two large processions that gave thanks. One went to the right on the wall, toward the Dung Gate. - Nehemiah 12:31 (That one is probably significant when we talk about giving thanks in a world that is a mess.)
Whoever sacrifices a thank offering honors Me, and whoever orders his conduct, I will show him the salvation of God.” - Psalm 50:23
Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.
Acknowledge that Yahweh is God. He made us, and we are His — His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For Yahweh is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations. - Psalm 100
I will fervently thank the Lord with my mouth; I will praise Him in the presence of many. - Psalm 109:30
I love the Lord because He has heard my appeal for mercy. - Psalm 116:1 (Thankfulness for mercy means someone has suffered because of me in some way, but I am thankful because God redeems.)
I rise at midnight to thank You for Your righteous judgments. - Psalm 119:62
Jesus took the seven loaves and the fish, and He gave thanks, broke them, and kept on giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. - Matthew 15:36
Then Jesus took a cup, and after giving thanks, He said,“Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” - Luke 22:17-19
He fell facedown at Jesus' feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan. - Luke 17:16
So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You heard Me. - John 11:41
I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because the news of your faith is being reported in all the world. - Romans 1:8
Thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were transferred to, and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. - Romans 6:17-18
[Speaking of holidays] Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord. Whoever eats, eats for the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; and whoever does not eat, it is for the Lord that he does not eat it, yet he thanks God. - Romans 14:6
If I partake with thanks, why am I slandered because of something I give thanks for? - 1 Corinthians 10:30
Everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory. - 2 Corinthians 4:15
I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. - Ephesians 1:16
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. - Philippians 4:6
Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. - Colossians 4:2
We must always thank God for you, brothers. This is right, since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing. - 2 Thessalonians 1:3
But we must always thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. - 2 Thessalonians 2:13
I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone. - 1 Timothy 2:1
For everything created by God is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, - 1 Timothy 4:4
I guess my point is, life is hard. Life is not fair. Life is filled with problems and injustices. We can't iron it all out where we are. We can't fix everything. We can't make up for how we have hurt others. There is no reset button. We can't tally up who owes who what. We are horrible scorekeepers. But we can give thanks. We can give great thanks even in a broken world. In fact... we must give thanks. God is not done with us. And let's remember... we don't give thanks because everything is perfect or fair, but because God is good, and has shown His goodness to us in things that are imperfect.
In fact, some of the purest praise and thanksgiving I have ever seen was from people who were "directly or indirectly caused displacement, death, dehumanization, suffering, or isolation." Hmmm... I wonder what that tells us.
We should certainly avoid causing injury to others, or being happy about injustice. But we should never withhold thanksgiving to a God who is in the business of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. Be thankful today... and every day.
Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. - 1 Thessalonians 5:18
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.