To Whom Are We Thankful?

My friend Kameron posted a quote from G.K. Chesterton the other day that I thought was very insightful: “The worst moment for an atheist is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.”
I was reflecting on this quote as I spent Thanksgiving with my family. It seems that within the American culture we do have a deep understanding of how blessed we are. We have, after all, set aside a day for the specific purpose of thanksgiving. But as our culture becomes more and more secular we begin to lose an understanding of whom we should thank. Thanks implies a source after all.  Why thank anyone? Have we not built this nation on our own? Our money was not given to us, we earned it. Should we then thank ourselvesPerhaps we ought to learn from the Romans who also suppressed the Source and emphasized the recipients.

“For 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. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” Romans 1:21-24
God gave the Romans over to their depravity, and allowed them to continue in the futility of their thinking. Why? Because they did not give him honor or thanks. The problem was in part a lack of gratitude.
Are we so different? Today we live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world and yet we cannot seem to see past ourselves. We evidence the fact that we worship and serve the created through selfishness and pride. Just one day after Thanksgiving, every year we hear of fist fights and shouting matches in which we have even killed, sacrificed our neighbors on the altars of our lusts. And then instead of pointing our children to God, we wait in ridiculously long lines to buy for them idols of plastic and silicon. And then when we look around at all that we have been given we shrug off thankfulness and pat ourselves on the back for all of our hard work. To this, Paul would reply,
“What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” 1 Corinthians 4:7
Like the Romans, boasting in what we have received as if it had something to do with us has led us to a culture saturated with sexual immorality. It is nearly impossible to watch a TV show or movie these days without a homosexual character. It is more common for Americans to live together than to be married and Planned Parenthood is having Black Friday sales on emergency contraception. The wealth and blessing from the Lord, when it is not appreciated as a gift, becomes a disease. Corrupting us from the inside until we do not even know what is right anymore. The longer that things go on this way, the worse it seems to get as we start to think that our prosperity and the lack of response from God means that he approves. And Paul would offer us this question:
“Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4
God gives us gifts, and is patient with us, for the purpose of our repentance. The answer for the Romans and for America is repentance! And it is repentance that starts with acknowledging God. This is an amazing way that we as the church can lead our culture. This does not mean that we avoid all Christmas sales and long lines, but that when we buy and give gifts we remember that every good and perfect gift is from above. When we pray for our holiday meals, let us really consider the fact that God is the Source. As we drive across the country to see family, let us reflect on the power of God who created the mountains, the oceans, and every living creature by speaking! He is the One who gives us life and breath. Let our mouths be full of the Lord’s praises.

Author: David M. Hare

Dave is a husband, father of four Africans, and is currently helping the Kwakum people do Oral Bible Storying and Bible translation in Cameroon, Africa.