We begin by thanking God for who He is, and what He has done for us through His gospel of glory. He is the triune God, which means that He is love. Love is not an afterthought, not an add-on. From all eternity, the Father has loved the Son, and the Son the Father. The Spirit of their mutual love has been poured out upon us, now that Jesus showed us the love of the Father by dying on the cross for us, and who has come back from the dead for our justification.
We also thank God for the creational emblems of His goodness and grace, emblems that surround us on every hand. The overflowing goodness of God is seen in marital companionship, friendship, breath, light, beer, sex, sleep, hot water, pie, turkey, potatoes and gravy, sunlight, grass, snow, children, grandchildren, electricity, shelter, fire, electronic gadgets, cars, books, and music. We serve and worship a God who gives to us with prodigality and abandon.
So God in His grace has given us yet another celebration of Thanksgiving. On the one hand we should just do it — bow our heads and thank Him — and on the other we need to give ourselves to the study of thanksgiving. Were we to do that, we would come to understand how crucial this is. Our lack of understanding this point is why we are losing the culture war.
Whenever someone declares his gratitude for all the goodness that God showers us with, it is not long before someone says (or thinks), “But what about the people who don’t have these things?” Shouldn’t we feel guilty until everybody has some? No — because misdirected envy and muddled guilt are a principal cause of misery and poverty.
The first Thanksgiving was in 1623, and it was a time of abundance. It also marked a fundamental deliverance from the experiment of the two previous years, in which the Puritans had a go at collectivism, and almost starved to death. Didn’t work. Never has, never will. God hates that kind of sharing.
The kind of sharing He loves is based on private ownership, hard work, covenant blessing, all appropriate thanksgiving rendered to Him, and with the recipient of the glorious largesse going on to imitate God Himself in the resultant overflow. Refusal to give thanks cuts off the taproot of this kind of gospel blessing.
The enemy of thanksgiving is ingratitude, and therefore the enemy of the gospel is ingratitude. But the serpent is crafty, and so Paul wants Christians to be on their toes (2 Cor. 11:3). As Christians we all know that we are to render thanks to God for the good things. And so what we have done is become hypercritical, and we have convinced ourselves over time that our milk and honey is not the same as milk and honey in Bible times. Ours has cholesterol in it, and residue from pesticides, and fat probably, and the bees gathered pollen from land we stole from the Indians.
We should have none of this. Unless we know how to thank God for Cool Whip in a plastic container with a plastic lid, applied to pumpkin pie, in its turn made from the processed ingredients purchased in a can, it remains no wonder that the secularists are winning. Gratitude is simple. Food wowserism is complicated, and full of grumbles.
The lessons for us are basic:
“For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4).
“Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
“And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee” (Dt. 28:11).
And why did the Deuteronomic curses come upon them? Because they despised the Cool Whip. And the marshmallow jello.
” . . . because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things” (Dt. 28:47).
As I write this, Nancy — may her name be honored in our family for generations — is baking pies that some would like to claim are not good for my heart. On the contrary, before taking a bite, my heart is full of their mediated goodness.