Welcome to America’s second-favorite holiday (next only to Christmas). But we’re a bit conflicted about the main course.
Eighty-eight percent of us will eat turkey today. Unsurprisingly, 70 percent of us say it’s not a proper Thanksgiving meal without turkey. But 65 percent of us would like an alternative to turkey on the table.
Of course, we could join the 9 percent of Americans who will eat their Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant. Then we could order whatever the restaurant serves. If you have a spare $150,000, you could celebrate the world’s most expensive Thanksgiving dinner at New York City’s Old Homestead Steakhouse.
Poultry aside, here’s an important statistic: While the holidays are filled with shopping and commercials for more shopping, 88 percent of us say we are thankful for family today. Only 32 percent say they are thankful for wealth.
Giving thanks “in” and “for” all things
This Thanksgiving week, we’re exploring the biblical commands to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and to “always give thanks to God the Father for everything” (Ephesians 5:20 NCV). As we have noted, God calls us to give thanks “in” and “for” all that we experience.
In hard places, this is hard to do. We can pretend that all is well, but God sees our hearts. We can claim that things will inevitably get better, but biblical examples of innocent suffering prove that it’s not necessarily so.
On Tuesday, we discussed ways to trust that God will redeem our present challenges. Yesterday, we noted the power of public gratitude in the face of hard times.
Today, let’s learn from an unlikely source how and why to be grateful for present gifts.
“Your faith has made you well”
Luke 17 tells the familiar story of ten lepers who were healed by Jesus.
Jesus met these suffering men as “he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee” (vv. 11–12). In response to their cry for mercy, he told them to “go and show yourselves to the priests” (v. 14a), the act of one who wants to be pronounced clean of leprosy so he can reenter society. And as they obeyed him, they were “cleansed” (v. 14b).
However, only one returned to thank Jesus for his cleansing (v. 16a). Luke makes clear the astonishment he expects his readers to feel when he adds, “Now he was a Samaritan” (v. 16b).
As John notes, “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9). Jews considered Samaritans to be a race of half-breeds resulting from intermarriage between Gentiles imported into the region by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:24) and Jews who remained there after the Assyrian conquest.
Consequently, the Samaritans and the Jews lived in enmity for centuries. The former built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim. They accepted only the first five books of the Old Testament and rejected all Jewish traditions. That the only person returning to give thanks was a Samaritan must have shocked Luke’s Jewish readers.
As a result, only the Samaritan received Jesus’ word of blessing: “Your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). “Well” translates sozo, meaning “to be delivered” or “to be saved.” The other nine were healed physically; only this man was healed spiritually.
A Scottish pastor’s surprising prayer
From a Samaritan leper, one of the unlikeliest of all faith heroes, we learn this lesson: thanking God for his material gifts positions us to receive even greater spiritual gifts.
This is a powerful reason for choosing gratitude “in” and “for” all circumstances. No matter how hard things are, we can always find a reason to give thanks. And when we do, we experience what God can only give to those who are willing to receive his grace.
Consider an example: A Scottish pastor was famous for beginning his invocation each Sunday with a word of thanksgiving. He could find something positive in even the most negative of times.
Then came a Sunday when the weather was atrocious: icy streets, frigid temperatures, howling winds. When the pastor rose to pray, those in the congregation thought, “Surely he’ll not begin with thanksgiving on such a terrible day.”
But they were wrong: the pastor opened his prayer with the words, “Lord, we thank you that it is not always like this.”
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving”
As you gather with your family and friends today, God’s word invites you to make time to give thanks for his material provisions. The food you share, the shelter and safety you enjoy, the blessing of being with those you love and those who love you. Even if gratitude is hard for you, look for ways and reasons to give thanks.
When you do, know that you will experience God’s spiritual favor as a result. As you “enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4), you will encounter the Lord himself. Like the Samaritan leper, you will fall “at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks” (Luke 17:16).
And that will be a Thanksgiving to remember.
NOTE: On this day of thanks, I am especially thankful for you. It is a wonderful privilege to share this ministry with you each weekday morning. May the Lord bless you and yours with a wonderful day filled with gratitude and love.