This week, many Americans gather with family or friends to enjoy a day off work, some good food and perhaps, a little football. There will be news reports of our military personnel celebrating Thanksgiving away from home. Thousands of communities will make special efforts to feed the homeless and distribute food to the less fortunate. On this day set aside for the “Giving of Thanks,” where does a secular nation direct its gratitude? Is Thanksgiving merely a day in which a prosperous country enjoys the fruit of its labors? Christians know better.

Thanksgiving Requires Perspective

A lack of perspective nearly always leads us to say “I’m great!” rather than, “I’m grateful.” Alfred Nobel was born in 1833 and amassed incredible wealth through many inventions. Most notably, Nobel was responsible for the creation of Dynamite. In 1888, he awoke to read his Obituary in a French newspaper. The Obituary was entitled “The Merchant of Death is Dead.” Though the article was accidently eight years premature, Nobel was sufficiently shaken that he changed his will. The Nobel Prizes for remarkable achievements in arts and sciences exist because Alfred Nobel got a rare and sobering perspective on his life.

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In Luke 18, Jesus tells the story of a man who prospered to the point that his barns could no longer hold all of his wealth. Rather than expressing gratitude, the man made plans to build bigger storage and enjoy life all the more.

“Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:18-21 NASB).

As with all Jesus’ Parables, this is much more than a simple story. It’s easy to see the temptations of our nation’s prosperity in the man’s self-satisfaction. Of all the things the man possesses in his inventory, self-awareness and humility are not among them.

Knowing Our Need

In Luke the seventh chapter, a Pharisee, named Simon, invites Jesus to eat in his home. A woman with a commonly-discussed reputation knows that Jesus is dining with Simon. She’s aware of Jesus. Perhaps, she’s heard Him speak. Knowing that He’s nearby, she is deeply moved, and she enters Simon’s house with a vial of perfume. Though Simon did not offer Jesus the honor of a traditional foot-washing, the woman kneels at Jesus’ feet and washes them with her tears. As she dries them with her hair, she kisses His feet and anoints them with the perfume. I can only imagine the stillness in the room as the religious guests are embarrassed by her outpouring of emotion.

Some things haven’t changed much in two thousand years. Judgment is always the knee-jerk reaction of self-righteousness. Knowing the woman’s reputation, the Pharisee immediately concludes that Jesus is not a prophet. Otherwise, Jesus would surely realize that a sinner is touching Him. Jesus knows Simon’s thoughts and tells him a story.

“A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” (Luke 7:41-42 NLT).

The Pharisee answers, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” Though the Pharisee can correctly deduce the relationship of forgiveness and gratitude, his academic understanding brings him no closer to God. In his own eyes, the Pharisee has little to be forgiven; consequently, he has little need, let alone love, for Jesus. With the fragrance of the perfume filling the house as a reminder of the woman’s worship, Jesus speaks,

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47 NLT).

Thanksgiving is a day for Christians to remember the depth of our need and the miracle of our forgiveness. We can’t help but be filled with gratitude. Awareness of God’s mercy causes us to walk differently. We find ourselves on our knees more frequently. We speak with humility. We listen more carefully. We freely offer compassion where, previously, we might have offered only flippant advice and reserved judgment. In short, we love Jesus all the more, and those around us see Him come alive in us.



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