Today is a day set aside for giving thanks. It is a wonderful tradition we Americans have carried on for decades (even as Black Friday shopping deals encroach on the day). Despite all the turmoil going on in the world, we have much to be thankful for.
But I feel the need to issue a warning:
The contents of our thankful sayings will reveal what we hold most dear. More specifically, which person(s) we hold most dear. So when grace is said before dinner tonight, or as everyone goes around the table to say what they’re thankful for…listen not just for their words, but listen for their heart. Above all, we should listen to our own words and consider our motives.
The shift is subtle, but it is so easy for our prayers and thankfulness to become self-centered. One of Jesus’ parables dealt directly with this:
[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else:
Now before we ignore this parable because we think that we don’t fit Jesus’ target audience…let’s think back over our prayers for the last week. Maybe you’ve prayed only once, or once a day, or even multiple times a day, but what has been the content of those prayers?
How do our prayers compare to these two individuals?
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself:
‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people – greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying,
‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’
I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Can you hear the bragging tone of the self-centered Pharisee? He’s so thankful that he doesn’t do the wrong things and that he always does all the right things. Certainly, God should be impressed by his actions. In the Pharisee’s mind, he has earned his place with God by doing everything better than everyone else.
The tax collector doesn’t bother to look at what he has or has not done. Instead, his focus is entirely on God. He recognized that God was the foundation of their relationship. Without God’s participation and mercy, there was no chance for this tax collector – regardless of what good things he does or has.
So let’s avoid being thankful for “things” and “stuff” simply because “things” and “stuff” are enjoyable. Let’s not be thankful in comparison to other’s situations and life choices. It’s ok to enjoy blessings and good moments in life; however, the amount of blessings we have is not proof of how close we are with God.
But some evidence of our relationship with God will be heard in our prayers and words of thanks.