Am I Thankful?

Renewal flows from gratitude.

The more I pray for, study, and seek renewal for the church, the more I realize that personal renewal is a necessary part of what happens corporately. I am not completely sure if it is a precedent condition, a coincident condition, or a result of the other. I am pretty sure there is reason to ask a “Chicken and Egg; which came first?” type of question about many of the past times of renewal.

In thinking about Thanksgiving holiday observances, I was drawn along a path that is relevant to personal renewal. It started with wondering why we needed a holiday to remind us and focus us on thanksgiving. It’s a good idea to attach thanksgiving thoughts to the time of harvest. It is good to thank God for all the earth gives us, especially at harvest time.

It is also good to remind us to show gratitude. I can remember many times someone at the Thanksgiving meal stopping to remind all gathered souls that it is good and right to be thankful. But why then shouldn’t we be reminded more often? That leads us to worship.

Much of what we know of the ancient worship of our God comes from the Psalms. It is pretty clear that giving thanks was an important and regular part of the songs and prayers of God’s people. Additionally, thanksgiving was a key component of the annual festivals that were commanded so that the people of God would remember what our faithful God had done in history and continue to be grateful.

This carried into the Christian worship that was marked with prayers of thanksgiving and Christ’s Holy Meal, which was instituted so that we would remember God’s great loving gift in His sacrifice. Couple that with countless prayers in worship and in private over the millennia giving thanks for God’s love and activity. Clearly gratitude is an important part of the rhythm of the Christian life. Many Christians start each day and each meal with thanksgiving. But I wonder how grateful we really are.

I wonder how grateful I am. If I truly believed and lived like all I am and have comes from God and needs to be daily surrendered to Him, how could I be caught up in the materialism and self-seeking culture of our age?

All of these thoughts, which I had to sort through to fit into this column, led me to the big question: “How do I know how thankful I really am?” The answer hit me pretty hard. Gratitude leads to generosity. It naturally flows.

In fact, when I realized it, I felt quite simple because it actually is a fairly self-evident truth. Almost all generosity is accompanied with an acknowledgement that we are giving back.

So, are you concerned with selfish and entitlement-based behaviour? If so, learn to be more thankful. Want to be more generous? Be more thankful. Coupled with that, I suspect another truth: Want to be more thankful? Be more generous.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Published in The Presbyterian Record on October 1, 2014.