An Argument Against Thanksgiving Day

horn_of_plentyWhen I was in school, our teacher would inevitable give us an assignment as Thanksgiving approached that required us to write down all the things for which we were thankful. From what I remember, I put the big things on my list: my parents, God, my home, my brother and sister, our cats and dog, my friends, school and teachers (OK, maybe I didn’t put those on the list. 😉 )

The point is, I was thinking of all the good things I had, in particular the ones I took for granted, but when I paused, I really was glad I had each one.

Never once did I think that Thanksgiving could be a day for digging deeper. In fact, this “count your blessings, name them one by one” approach to Thanksgiving trained me to think of the good things I was thankful for as the tangible evidence that God cared.

I didn’t stop to think that He might also care just as much for a little Christian girl in an orphanage in India who had no parents or home, and sometimes went to bed hungry.

I also didn’t realize that many, many of the people recorded in Scripture who started well, who said they would obey God, turned from Him on the heels of receiving His blessings.

King David comes to mind. He’d survived Saul’s attempts to kill him, ascended to the throne, and led his people to victory after victory. Then, as he enjoyed the fruit of his labor, he decided to stay home while his commander led his army into battle. And that’s when David saw Bathsheba, ignored the fact that she was married, and committed adultery with her.

David repented, but others never turned it around. King Asa, for example, ruler of the southern kingdom of Judah, walked with God and experienced great success against the enemies because he turned to God for help:

Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, “LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.”

God answered that prayer, and for thirty-eight years Asa ruled as a man dependent upon God. But there came a day when he decided to buy his way out of trouble instead of pray his way out.

His scheme worked, but here’s what God told him:

At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” (2 Chron. 16:7-9)

Asa could have repented too, but instead he threw Hanani into prison and he oppressed some of the people. He ended up sick, alone, and bitter. He had the blessing of answered prayer and God’s protection and power, and he turned his back on the Giver of all those good gifts.

I could go on and on. Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Uzziah, Miriam, Nadab and Abihu, Jonah, Gehazi, and many more.

It seems as if the good things either became an idol that moved in front of God as the most loved, or the individual took credit for the good things and moved himself in front of God as the most loved.

When the people of Israel were in want, they turned to God. When they experienced His abundance, they turned from Him.

So it seems to me, having a thanksgiving day in which we simply tick off the good things we have is a way to set ourselves up for failure. Not that we should deny the good things, but it seems to me the true approach to Thanksgiving should be an enumeration, not of our stuff, but of God’s attributes–the things He’s revealed about Himself that give us a look into His character. And not just an enumeration, but an all out face plant at His feet, thanking Him for who He is and what He’s done.

After all, who God is lies behind what He’s given us and why. Who God is will outlast any of the stuff we enjoy today. Who God is, is a treasure that outshines any other.

It’s certainly not wrong for anyone to celebrate a national Thanksgiving Day as we are here in the US this coming Thursday, or for anyone to have a personal day of giving thanks. For myself, though, I want to change my focus. I don’t want this to be about the good things our God gives but about our good God Himself.

I wish I was clever enough to make a video that would go viral or savvy enough to get this trending on Twitter. What I’d like to see is believers unite to say, I’m thankful because God is merciful. I’m thankful because God is just. I’m thankful because God is generous. I’m thankful because God is my salvation. I’m thankful because ___ Your turn! 😀

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Published in: on November 26, 2013 at 7:37 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 Comments

  1. Becky,

    What about all of the passages where Israel gave thanks to God in the Old Testament for the things He had done? This even seems to have carried over into the New Testament, where Jesus healed the lepers and only one returned to thank Him, and He was clearly disappointed. I believe God appreciates our praise and thanksgiving for the things He has done. I don’t believe that it is idolatry to focus on that, however briefly each Thanksgiving.

    We might not always look for the deeper things to thank Him for, but I believe He knows and understands that we are finite and have small cares that mostly fall closer to home. It’s a lofty goal to want to expand that circle of caring. Some times it’s more reasonable to desire that than at other times. But mostly, you really do care best for what you are most familiar with.

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  2. Krysti, I agree that Scripture does show times when God’s people praised and thanked Him. I guess I was taking a sensationalist approach with that title. I don’t think it’s wrong at all for us to count our blessings.

    I do thing our blessings should have a double purpose, though, besides our enjoyment–to bring praise to God and to remind us that all good things come from His hand.

    In many ways, I think blessings pose greater temptations than do afflictions.

    Even Hezekiah, who was one of the very best kings of Judah, when God had rescued Jerusalem from Assyria and had healed Hezekiah from a terminal illness, started bragging to the Babylonians about all the riches his kingdom still possessed instead of praising God.

    When we’re down and out, we have no more options but to trust God. When we’re basking in abundance, however, trusting God is a choice more than a necessity. Do we trust God for our daily food the way the Pilgrims did? Hardly. They needed God to give them a good harvest or they would not survive the winter. We need God to . . . what? Keep the grocery stores stocked? Help us hold our jobs or find another one? Get us on the list for food stamp cards? Help us locate the nearest food bank?

    I have no doubt that God supplies our food, but we are removed from the process and can easily take it for granted.

    But the point really is that it is God who fills us up, not the stuff He gives. Jesus said He was the Bread of life. So I’m thinking Thanksgiving is a great time to think about God and His nature and thank Him for who He is. If we thought about the world without God or with a God who didn’t have the traits He’s shown us He has, what would life be like? What would it be like if God wasn’t merciful, or good, or all knowing, or righteous?

    The people in the Old Testament spent a lot of time praising God for what He’d done, but also for who He is. I think they spent a lot less time praising Him for what He’d given them.

    I’d like to learn to follow their example.

    Becky

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  3. […] some ways, in contradiction to my Tuesday post entitled “An Argument Against Thanksgiving Day”, this post could be called, “In Favor Of Thanksgiving.” My goal for these posts this […]

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