A psalm for giving thanks.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
-David, Psalm 100
Easter and Christmas are the most prolific Christian holidays celebrated in the United States, but in the strictest sense those are not commanded in scripture. As far as we know, the followers of Jesus never did anything special for his birthday. Recognizing that the Son of God came into the world as incarnate deity is paramount to the Christian faith, but what I’m saying is that no verse in scripture instructs us to celebrate Christmas. Further, Christians worship on Sunday rather than the Sabbath, or seventh day, because the resurrection was on the first day of the week. In a sense, every Sunday is Easter Sunday.
We are instructed to give thanks.
We are reminded many times throughout scripture to acknowledge God. Psalm 100 is specially for giving thanks and there are others with similar themes. Then there is Proverbs 3:5-10 –
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.
Keeping the command to “give thanks” in mind, we are told not to lean (rely) on our own understanding and also to acknowledge him in all our ways. In Deuteronomy 8:17 were warned against thinking my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth. Hard work or a sharp mind may have allowed us to prosper, but the health and ability to do such work are also gifts from God. Consider the old adage I felt sorry for myself for having no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet. We have really done nothing in and of ourselves.
Thanksgiving acknowledges God.
Prayer puts us in a humble and submissive posture by admitting we cannot do for ourselves. The very act of asking God for anything is our admission he is greater. Thanksgiving, in very similar fashion, acknowledges what God has done. The Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land, witnessed the destruction of the Pharaoh’s army, then quickly forgot what God had done for them. In short order they are bowing down to a golden calf, proclaiming an idol – the one they watched Aaron carve – brought them out of Egypt. Luke 12 reminds us to acknowledge God (v. 8-9), and relates the story of the rich fool.
We have much to be thankful for.
Even in a recession the United States operates the largest economy in the world. Even $15 trillion in debt we are finding out there are industrialized countries worse off. Capitalism aside, you would not be reading this blog post without electricity and access to the internet. That puts you and I in an elite few among the world’s 7 billion people. Most of us are so richly blessed our eyes are dull to it. We loathe an iPhone 3 the day iPhone 4 comes out. We throw food in the garbage that millions of kids would be happy to find in a dumpster. Our pets drink water that is filtered, chlorinated and runs from the tap while about half the world’s population walk 1 or 2 miles to carry water back home that we wouldn’t dare ingest.
We have much to be thankful for in this life. The Apostle Paul said If I had hope in this life only, I would be above all men most miserable. We can be thankful for turkey, family and the football game. But God’s greatest gifts are mercy, grace and salvation.