This being the Sunday leading into Thanksgiving week, I felt God leading me to pause our series on apologetics (“Beyond Belief“), at least for this week, to reflect on this upcoming holiday, particularly focusing on thankfulness and gratitude. Let’s start with the Psalmist’s view of what it means to be thankful:
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.Psalms 100 (NIV), borrowed from YouVersion
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are 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 the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
This song makes it clear that we should enter this week with a posture of gratitude. But wait–does he actually say anything about this week, or a particular day this week? Hmm, I don’t see it. What are we to make of that?
Perhaps that we should have a posture of gratitude every day.
But shouldn’t we really do this only when things are going well?
That makes sense, but I don’t see anything about that either. This Psalm makes it seem like we should be joyful simply because we know that the Lord is God, because he made us, and because we are his people.
Now let’s reflect for a moment on thankfulness. A good friend of mine who does not believe in God told me last year at this time that he and his wife had adopted an attitude of thankfulness for the blessings in their lives. While I appreciate the sentiment, I wondered to myself (since I’m not an “in your face” kind of guy), To whom are you thankful? Whom do you think gave you those blessings?
Here’s the thing: “Thank” is what is known as a reciprocal verb, meaning it’s something one does to someone else. Here’s a definition of “reciprocal verb”:
Reciprocal verb: a verb that describes something that two people do to or with each other, for example the verb ‘meet’ in the sentence ‘We always meet in the park’.macmillon dictionary
So you have to thank someone. It doesn’t really make sense to thank yourself, nor does it make sense to thank nobody. Some secularists (like my friend) may say they are grateful to “the universe”. But the fact of the matter–actually, even the science (their cheap replacement for god)–is that the universe doesn’t have the capacity to care about any of us in the slightest way, let alone give us blessings.
By all means, we should be thankful this week, of course we should. But so should we be thankful next week, and every week after that. Every day.
But as we assume the appropriate posture of gratitude, I have to ask the question I chose not to challenge my friend with: Whom will you thank?
Also, I wanted to pass along my own reflection on thankfulness and how it led me to this same question:
May God continue to bless you richly this Thanksgiving week and Thanksgiving day–which is every day!