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Thanksgiving - The Lord’s Will

Someone noted the worst possible moment for an atheist is when he/she feels grateful but has no one to thank. An even worse moment is when those who claim faith in a loving, kind, giving God feel they have nothing to be thankful for and never give Him thanks. The Scriptures are soaked with verses about thanksgiving. The words "thank, thanks, thankful, and thanksgiving" occur at least 134 times in the New King James Version of the Bible. What does it mean when God comments on and/or gives commands concerning a subject that many times? Let me suggest three things. First, He is serious about this! Like His teaching on love, He commands thanksgiving so often it is impossible to conclude this is not a big deal to Him. Second, it must mean He wants it to be a big deal to us! Over and over again He calls us to be thankful, and we can't ignore that if we take His word seriously. And third, it suggests that we tend to not be thankful and to not give thanks nearly as often as we should. Consider the account of Jesus' healing of ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. After their pitiful pleas to Jesus for mercy (vs 13), He directed them, "Go show yourselves to the priests. And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed" (vs 14). It is ever true that the sure route to healing is obeying Jesus, and by so doing all ten lepers were healed of the dread disease. But there is more involved here than mere physical healing, great as that is in itself. Only one out of the ten, a despised Samaritan, returned to Jesus to express gratitude. Jesus is not only surprised but also deeply disappointed the other nine could be so thoughtless and unthankful, saying in verses 17-18, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" Then Jesus surprises us. He told the thankful Samaritan, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well" (vs 19). Luke already told us in unmistakable terms that all ten had already been cleansed of their leprosy (vs 14 above). Then what are we to make of this pronouncement of a second healing upon the one who returned to thank Jesus? Desmond Tutu writes something worth thinking about — "I have thought that perhaps this Gospel story points to a deeper leprosy in the spirit, the leprosy of ingratitude. To be unthankful, unappreciative, is in fact to be diseased. To cleanse our spirits of depression, of self-pity & other forms of spiritual leprosy, we have to be thankful, appreciative persons" (An African Prayer Book, p 53). Whether we agree with Tutu or not, we can't escape the fact the Bible classes the ungrateful as spiritually unwell. If you don't believe that, check out Romans 1:21ff and 2 Timothy 3:2-4 and note the kind of company God lumps the unthankful in with.

Samuel Johnson said, "Gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation. You do not find it among gross people." First Thessalonians 5:18 sums it up: "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Gratitude is not always easy, and it is not the world's way to acknowledge and thank God. But it is the Lord's will. Gross people don't thank God in even the best of circumstances. But God's people always do, even in the worst. If we are in Christ we always have reason to thank God!

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ