If We’re Thankful, Why Aren’t We Content?

This Thursday, those of us in the US will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Already I’ve seen some Facebook wall posts listing out things people are thankful for, and I suspect there will be any number of blog posts that follow suit.

It seems quite common to hold a genuine feast on Thanksgiving Day, even pause to pray and thank God for the bountiful blessings, then scurry out the next day and shop to the dropping point.

So how thankful can we actually be if we must always buy more? Granted, I realize much of the after-Thanksgiving shopping is connected with Christmas, but the American way of life has become that of the consumer. Once, not so long ago, we made things. Now we consume things.

And what’s more, that’s considered the good life. In regard to the present state of the economy, the powers that be seem to believe the solution to righting the ship is to get America out of saving and back into spending.

While I’m not saying that spending is “bad” or that our spirituality should be measured by how much we save, I do think there’s a point where we should evaluate our attitude to see if we are living the abundant life rather than living the Biblical life.

Not long ago I read the Biblical account of the exodus—God’s people leaving Egypt for the Promised Land. On their journey God provided their food—manna:

The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey.
– Ex 16:31

Wafers with honey. Yet a bunch of people who enjoyed this gracious provision as they traveled across the wilderness found fault with it.

The sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
– Num 11:4b-6

For the moment, give them the benefit of the doubt—they were tired of the same diet meal after meal, day after day. But look what they were doing—remembering what they’d enjoyed in Egypt. Never mind that Egypt had just experienced devastating plagues that had wiped out virtually all vegetation. Between the plague of hail and the plague of locust, were there any cucumbers and melons and leeks and onions and garlic for them to go back to?

The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled in all the territory of Egypt; they were very numerous. There had never been so many locusts, nor would there be so many again. For they covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every plant of the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Thus nothing green was left on tree or plant of the field through all the land of Egypt.
– Exodus 10:14- 15

Granted, the hail did not fall in Goshen where the people of Israel lived. Let’s say for the moment that the locusts didn’t go there either, though the text doesn’t specify this. How was it that Israel had the food they remembered so fondly when the rest of Egypt was decimated? Obviously the answer was, God.

What they had in Egypt, then, came from the hand of God, and what they had in the wilderness came from the hand of God. Consequently, when they cried discontentedly against the manna they were “forced” to eat, they essentially were telling God He wasn’t doing a good job of caring for them.

In other words, discontent is actually an accusation against God.

Yet our entire existence seems to be made up of striving and struggling and trying and working. Oh, wait. Wasn’t that what God told Adam life would be like outside the Garden?

So the striving and all isn’t the problem per se. That’s the condition into which we’ve been born. But responding with discontent seems to me to be a choice.

More on this another day.

Published in: on November 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm  Comments (4)  
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  2. The ironic thing is the most beautiful things in this world we cannot earn, they are given to us freely to enjoy:

    -Sunrises and Sunsets
    -Full moon on a crisp winter night
    -The smell of a baby (good smell, not the need a diaper change smell 🙂
    -The laughter of my kids
    -The soft fur of a much loved pet
    -A sunbeam coming through a window on a cold day
    -Sound of the rain through an open window

    I could go on and on, but these are things God gives us. We don’t work for them, we can’t buy them. They are everyday wonderful things God gives us. And the best one of all is God’s love. Its like a warm blanket, surrounding us, healing us, forgiving us through his Son’s blood. God is so good to us!


  3. We are starting to get hit with Christmas in Sydney. There’s a TV ad for Foxtel, a pay TV service, where a family plugs in some Christmas lights which spell out Merry Foxmas across the top of their house. When I first saw it I was struck by the fact that we are now trapped inside a commercial culture. Our inherited vernacular culture, the one we all create together, has been erased or co-opted.

    Over my lifetime I’ve watched the news become less about events and more about economics and finance. Previous leaders in a crisis may have said, “I have nothing to offer you but blood, sweat, toil and tears”. Today leaders of the “advanced” economies (not societies) just say, “Shop, shop, shop”. What is life for? Most of us will stay engaged in a full time relationship with work to the exclusion of all else so that a handful of CEOs can pay themselves obscene amounts of money. That’s what we’ve come to.

    We didn’t get the GFC in Australia, largely because we are busy digging up stuff and selling it to the Chinese. But people in general seem to have become conservers. They are paying down their debts and saving their money. So every evening on the news and current affairs programs we have to endure businessmen crying ino the microphone about their coming crisis. We have an economy/society built on “more”. It is manufactured by busines and delivered to us to buy at a high price. If we try to move to a society based on “enough”, we are told that it will be a disaster and we will all suffer.


  4. There’s more than one kind of discontent. There is, indeed, the kind that entails an accusation that God’s providence is not sufficient—and your warning is timely and necessary—but there’s also a sort of discontent that arises when God has blessed us richly but has not yet fulfilled all of his promises. If we find ourselves utterly content here and now, that is a problem. To borrow a metaphor from Lewis (somewhere in “The Weight of Glory”), should we be content to go on making mud pies in a slum because that’s what’s been given to us for now when God has promised us a holiday at the sea?


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