Come Thanksgiving Day each year, many of us give the nod to Pilgrims and Indians and talk of making ready for a harsh first winter in the New World.
But for the Christian, the deepest roots of our thanksgiving go back to the Old World, way back before the Pilgrims, to a story as old as creation, with a two-millennia-old climax. Itâ€™s a story that keeps going right on into the present and gives meaning to our little lives, even when weâ€™re a half a globe removed from historyâ€™s ground zero at a place called Golgotha.
You could call it the true story of thanksgiving â€” or you could call it the Christian gospel viewed through the lens of that often undervalued virtue known as â€œgratitude.â€ It opens up a few biblical texts we otherwise may be prone to downplay.
Hereâ€™s the true story of thanksgiving in four stages.
Created for Thanksgiving
First, God created humanity for gratitude. You exist to appreciate God. He created you to honor him by giving him thanks. Appreciating both who God is and his actions for us â€” in creating us and sustaining our lives â€” is fundamental to proper human life in Godâ€™s created world.
As he describes in Romans 1 whatâ€™s gone wrong with the world, the apostle Paul gives us this glimpse of the place of appreciation in the created order:
Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Part of what the first man and woman were created to do is honor God by being thankful. And part of what we exist to do is honor God by being thankful â€” and thus the numerous biblical commands enjoining gratitude.
Humanity was created to appreciate God. But as weâ€™ve already seen from Romans 1, ingratitude wasnâ€™t far away.