Halloween has just passed. Christmas is on its way. In fact, I was walking through the mall yesterday (November 1) and they were playing Christmas music. I vented my frustration, and my wife Becky said, "They've gotta sell stuff to people." Here's the problem... Our culture goes straight from going door to door demanding free candy to walking into the family room expecting free toys.
But tucked in-between our love affairs with free candy and wrapped gifts is a holiday called Thanksgiving. It represents our gratitude for a harvest of food. The fact is, Thanksgiving for our bountiful blessings has been diminishing. Why is that?
Is it because we don't actually understand the process? I think a lot of children believe that grocery stores grow food in the back, or something similar. If you want a turkey, potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, rolls, and a pumpkin pie, you can get it in less than an hour, with no effort outside of driving to a store, walking the aisles, and sliding a card. Don't get me wrong... I like the convenience. I enjoy the feast. But it likely isn't healthy for our culture. I'd say we end up throwing away more food after a Thanksgiving meal than most people ate for Thanksgiving 100 years ago.
It is about value. We don't have that much invested in the process, so we don't place great value on the harvest. Sowing and reaping is difficult work. It isn't just driving to Kroger and filling up a cart. Perhaps the first generation to be able to go to a store and buy all of the things they previously had to grow was abundantly thankful. But the farther we get from the field, the less likely we are to feel blessed by the convenience of the freezer section.
We tend to exchange gratefulness for entitlement. This is never good. The entitled do not say thank you, because they do not recognize blessing. The entitled complain more than the blessed. They are impatient. They easily cop an attitude. They are more greedy. They require more external constraint. They do not share well. They are more wasteful.
We were not created to feel entitled. We were created to work, receive the fruit of our labor (even if the labor is intensely difficult), and enjoy the produce with a heart of gratefulness. Gracefulness is a partner to gratefulness. Show me a person that is grateful, and I will show you a person who exhibits grace, and is setting themselves up for the greatest blessings in life.
The Bible relates this story about Jesus and some people who desired a great gift...
While traveling to Jerusalem, He passed between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, 10 men with serious skin diseases met Him. They stood at a distance and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
When He saw them, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”And while they were going, they were healed.
But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus said, “Were not 10 cleansed? Where are the nine? Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well.”
This devotional is not a rant against candy or Christmas. It is simply a reminder that receiving should be centered around a heart of thanksgiving that appreciates the cost of a blessed life. It may be revolutionary to say that we should block the Christmas season until we have celebrated the Thanksgiving season, but it is likely a revolution whose time has come.
We are trained in our culture to always look for the gift. But in the end we often value the gift more than the giver. When this happens, the gift is not the blessing it should be in our lives. There are plenty of gifts to be received. But thankfulness? Now that is a rare gift indeed... and one that keeps on giving.
It is alright to get free stuff, as long as we understand the true cost of the blessing. In our getting, let us not forget the giving... of thanks. Most everything you get in your life will eventually be gone. But you will probably always remember those tender times of thankfulness for the small things that could not be put in a bag or bought at the mall.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.
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My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.