More than 30 years ago, the editor of the denominational magazine I use to be a member of ruined Thanksgiving for many of us. His editorial made these observations;
Some of you will sit down at Thanksgiving dinner with your family and thank God for your cottage, second home, motor home and healthy investment portfolio. Yes, it’s true you have been blessed. But are you sure God wants you to have all these things? It is true that God gave you the ability, skills, intelligence, discipline and work ethic to make the income needed to possess them. But is that the reason God entrusted you with wealth?
Could it be that you’ve actually deprived the poor, or hungry, or sick of resources entrusted to you? There may be people right in your town, this very day, unable to thank God this Thanksgiving because their apartment is cold, or they’re living under an over-pass or don’t know God at all, because you have “their rent” or utility money tied up in stuff God didn’t actually intend for you to have?
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” 1 John 3:17
“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’” 2 Corinthians 8:13-15
Be careful what you thank God for this Thanksgiving.
There were angry people who wrote letters to this editor, accusing him of being a socialist or worst yet in our conservative town, a democrat! Others thought he had no right judging anyone with money. But I, the proverbial rich young ruler was profoundly moved.
Up to that time, I assumed that as long as I gave thanks to God for my “stuff” and tithed and then some, he was fine with my lifestyle. I had a sense of entitlement. I worked hard. I deserved the fruit of my labor. I was like the rooster that took credit for the sunrise. But with that editorial, I began to question “conventional Christian wisdom about money, wealth and possessions. It eventually led to Susan and me setting some financial boundaries for how much we spent on ourselves, enabling us to be more generous to others. I highly recommend reading a book by Ron Blue, Generous Living.
We still live very well – perhaps too well. (And we have a cottage.) No one can answer the question of how much is enough except God and yourself. But how much is enough isn’t some unknowable mystery of the universe! If you go before God and ask him over many weeks to guide you into a lifestyle that pleases him, you aren’t likely to get an audible answer. But those who’ve dared do it generally come away with a number that allows them to be more generous with others and less with themselves. It’s to him and him only, we’ll have to answer someday. But if we say “it all belongs to God” are we confident he really wants us to keep so much for ourselves? I’m grateful to God for that editor who had the courage to jar our consciences, instead of writing a bland Thanksgiving editorial filled with talk of turkeys, pilgrims, family and God.
That editorial has changed what I think about at Thanksgiving. When our family gathers, I now thank God for simple things – eye sight, hearing, taste, mobility, a warm house and a wife still sleeping next to her man after 53 years. There’s and old rabbinical prayer I utter occasionally, “Thank you Jehovah that all the holes in my body work.” And I also remember those so sad, broken or desperate, they can’t even find the energy to thank God today. And rather than just be sad for them, reach out and meet with someone and write a check if you are able, to a person you know or suspect is desperate.
At the suggestion of a friend, I’ve adopted the practice of journaling Thanksgiving morning. I first read my journal entries for the past year, then highlight the people for whom I’m thankful. That hour or so, spent early in the morning is holy ground for me.
I’ve also made a practice around Thanksgiving, of writing notes or calling people for whom I am particularly thankful. It’s the people in my life who’ve brought me more joy than my stuff. Is there someone who’s Thanksgiving would be richer this Thursday if they heard a heartfelt “Thank You” from you and/or received a surprise gift from you?
So, this Thanksgiving, remember to thank God for the simple things (and think twice about thanking him for the big stuff!) Happy Thanksgiving.