When we lived in Florida, we were 1,200 miles from “Grandma’s house.” The traditional family gathering and feast just did not work for us. So, we gathered up our own form of extended family. We invited in all the old bachelors from the church. Wow! The stories came in rapid succession and our sides ached from all the laughing. Some years were better than others, as an “I-can top-that” storytelling contest seemed to unfold every time. It made our Thanksgiving celebrations very special. We all loved each other and it became a real source of joy for all of us. The old bachelors loved it because my wife is a much better cook than any of them were.
Whenever I consider the quality of Thanksgiving, somehow my attention sooner or later turns to Jesus’ response to the ingratitude he experienced in Luke 17: 11-19. You’ll recall that ten lepers were healed, but only one of them … a Samaritan … returned to express gratitude. It is the same today. I feel our nation as a whole is missing an “attitude of gratitude.” Thanksgiving has become an extended holiday rather than a memorial of gratitude to the Lord our God who has given us such bounty and freedom.
Jesus was certainly disappointed by the attitude of nine of the lepers. We see that in His response where He said, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
First, it is a proper and necessary character quality of a Christian to have a grateful spirit. Be quick to express your thanks to the Lord and to others.
“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you,” 1 Thess. 5:18.
“Give thanks to the LORD,” is an expression found no less than 19 times in the Bible. Its repetition tells me it is important!
Second, when you express a kindness toward someone in the form of a deed or gift, be sure you have your expectation of reward firmly set on God alone and not from another person.
“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him,” Psalm 62:5.
If your expectation is from anyone other than the Lord, it will frustrate you and could possibly lead to a bitter spirit. Why? Because if you expect a positive response to your act of kindness and you don’t get it, anger can come and unresolved anger is the root of bitterness. It is possible to have a selfish attitude creep in that suggests, “I deserve to be thanked!” Why not do acts of grace and kindness and then look to your great reward in heaven?
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven … Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” Matt. 6:1-4.
Bottom line: look for opportunities to “give praise to God” and offer thanksgiving up to Him. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Cor. 9:15. Concern yourself with your proper responses to the goodness of God and do not look to others for reward.
Governor Bradford of Massachusetts made this first Thanksgiving Proclamation three years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth:
“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.
“Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, Nov. 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six-hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.” (emphasis mine)
We won’t be surrounded by our old bachelor friends this year. But I will be surrounded by my kids and grandkids. They are all believers. If any of the people around your table are lost, without Jesus, be sure to express thanksgiving for them and share Christ with them! I trust you too will have a great and glorious Thanksgiving Day with friends and loved ones. I have my sights set on a turkey leg and dressing.