Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Heartless Gratitude

I read ahead somewhat in the Our Daily Bread devotional for this quarter and out of curiosity I looked at Thanksgiving Day’s entry. After reading it and digesting it for a minute, I came to the conclusion that I disagreed with the main point the writer was trying to say. The writer shared the thoughts of a Washington Post columnist saying that most holidays had been corrupted by American commercialism and with that I agree. When you think that last year we frugal Americans spent around $38 billion dollars on Christmas, the conclusion can readily be drawn that yes, some holidays have become corrupted. In 2004 we spent roughly $10.47 billion just on Easter baskets.

However, the ODB writer led into a remark that the Washington Post columnist made about Thanksgiving. He said, “Thanksgiving Day has retained its intended purpose. This is a very rare day. It is wholly and entirely about gratitude.” In a sense the columnist is right. Thanksgiving probably is the only holiday where we have not really lost our focus on what the holiday is about. However, this is where I disagree with the ODB writer. Christians probably have not corrupted Thanksgiving as much as the other Christian holidays, except maybe that we celebrate gluttony on that day more than any other as one more spoonful of creamed potatoes is ladled onto the plate. I think where we probably fall short is the underlying heart attitude.

As a whole, Christians tend to be a giving lot. Occasionally at the church I serve, we fail to meet weekly budget needs. However, in a couple of short weeks the shortfall is made up. If the church did not meet weekly budget, for at least two years it probably would make no difference, given there is enough in the treasury to financially support the church for that length of time.

I am persuaded that Christians give--and they tend to give liberally; but not always from the right heart. This is what I see. We as a culture, as Americans, have become so blessed, that we think that if we do not have this certain lifestyle, then we just cannot make it. We see giving not as a joy and an opportunity to help someone less fortunate than us but rather as a duty or an obligation. One irritated church member once quipped because the church had had a plethora of benevolence requests one year, "It feels like I have to pay to go to church these days."

This is something else I see. We mistakenly believe that if I have given money, then my duty has been fulfilled. Money is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It begins with finances; it culminates in time, resources, talents, and gifts. Nowhere does the New Testament teach that giving should be a compulsion; it flows out of a heart of love for Christ in that He gave His best for me then I also will give my best for Him. Money is the easiest thing we can give, yet it also comes at a great sacrifice (at times) that to give it we believe that we have done what God expects of us; that and nothing more.

Baloney.

2 Corinthians 9:15: "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" Seldom do Christians see that their blessedness is bestowed upon them not to be a blessing unto others but for the sake of the blessing itself.
"For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened." (Mark 6:52)
The word hardened means calloused, to be covered with a thick skin. I worked for a time at a little restaurant and the man whom I worked for shared with me about another man who worked for him years ago whose hands were so tough he could reach into a 350 degree oven and pull out the pan without getting burned. Something that a normal person would be very sensitive to, he was not. I could not reach into an oven that hot and pull out a pan without really burning my hands. Yet some Christians’ hearts are just that hard, that the things that they ought to feel, they do not.

We give, oh yes, and we give liberally. We above all people in the world have reason to be thankful; yet more often than not we give begrudgingly. And the bottom line is this; when you sit down to eat Thanksgiving dinner, you will not sit down hungry. Why—because the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes are yours. Jesus has already worked that miracle for you. Just don't let God's gracious provision for you obscure the ideal that He looks toward in how you use that abundance.

When you live in the land of plenty you don’t hurt for others who are in need. May we this Thanksgiving be reminded that we above all people in the world are especially blessed and that we can help others who need it.

To all my patient readers, Happy Thanksgiving. May God bless you and may you in turn give that blessing unto another.

Sincerely,
Tony

2 comments:

selahV said...

tony, stumbled across your blog tonite and thought I let ya know that I'm grateful the Lord led you to write. Will go to your archives and read more. But to this post I must say Amen. Golly, I love Jesus. He's more than I can comprehend. SelahV

Tony said...

selahV,

Great blog alias, I like it! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Your word this evening was just the encouragement I needed. I am grateful. Hope to see you around again.

Blessings,
Tony