Gratitude Is Fine, But It Isn't Enough

If we're really people of faith we give thanks and give back.

We were returning from a Thanksgiving Day church service one year when my six-year-old son said, "Dad! I'm so very thankful." I was moved by those words until he followed up by asking, "Oh, by the way, what does it mean being thankful?" I told him that being thankful means counting your blessings and showing gratitude to God for each of them.

But shouldn't Thanksgiving mean more than that? Shouldn't it be a time for giving to those who are less fortunate? The word has two parts, you know--"thanks" and "giving."

We Americans didn't invent Thanksgiving. The ancient Jews did. They called it the Passover. We read about it in Deuteronomy 14:22-27. In gratitude for God's deliverance from their enemies and for provisions to meet their daily needs, the Jewish people were directed to come to their temple in the city of Jerusalem once a year, bringing one-tenth of their wealth for a gigantic party.

There was one other directive given in the Mosaic Law pertaining to this Thanksgiving feast. It was to make sure to it that the poor and needy were brought into the festivities. They especially were to be included. Widows and orphans were singled out to be honored guests and to equally share in the bounty of the occasion. A celebration that ignored the less fortunate was considered a sin against God.


Thousands of years later, those of us in the Judeo-Christian tradition must ask ourselves whether the Bible's prescription for thanksgiving should be applied here and now. Some of us make Thanksgiving into a day when we congratulate ourselves, as though we were somehow especially deserving of our good fortune. Our prosperity is not a sign of divine election, but an awesome responsibility. Jesus said: "From those who have much, much is expected.

Before carving the turkey, many of us will give thanks, and perhaps reflect on the blessings God has given us over the past year. Gratitude is a great thing, but if we're just counting our blessings and stopping there, we're not being good Christians. In the midst of our feasting on November 24th, are we remembering the poor and oppressed in the world, and making commitments to share our blessings with them? Part of being people of faith is not just giving thanks, but giving back.

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