A. I hope that everyone had a happy Thanksgiving Day! We surely did.
1. We all have so much to be thankful for, don’t we?
2. One teacher asked her students to write a composition entitled “What I’m thankful for on Thanksgiving.” One boy wrote, “I’m thankful that I’m not a turkey!”
3. So we can all be thankful that we are not turkeys, for a number of reasons!
B. Let me tell you another quick story.
1. One Sunday before Thanksgiving a preacher told his congregation that the church needed some extra money for the holiday benevolence and asked the people to prayerfully consider giving a little extra in the offering plate.
2. He said that whoever gave the most would be able to pick out three hymns.
3. After the offering plates were passed, the preacher glanced down and noticed that someone had placed a $1,000 check in offering.
4. He was so excited that he immediately shared his joy with the congregation and asked Sister Rosie, who wrote the check to come to the front to pick out three hymns.
5. Rosie slowly made her way forward and her eyes brightened as she looked over the congregation.
6. She then pointed to the three most handsome men in the building and said, "I’ll take him and him and him!"
C. Seriously, I think that Thanksgiving is one of the most spiritually healthy holidays of the year.
1. It is not only appropriate for us thank the Lord for all that he has given us, but it is also very good for us to pause and count our blessings.
2. Psalm 92:1 reads, “It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord…”
3. An attitude of gratitude is spiritually healthy thing for a number of reasons.
4. First of all, Gratitude keeps our spirits right with God.
5. Secondly, a spirit of gratitude makes it easier for us to get along with others. Ungrateful people are often ungracious people.
6. And, a spirit of gratitude also makes it easier for us to get along with ourselves.
D. Look with me at a few verses in 1 Timothy 6. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
1. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
2. Contentment is almost a lost word or concept in our society, isn’t it?
3. You might say that contentment is unAmerican.
4. Contentment goes against the grain of one of the most powerful “religions” in recorded history – the religion of “consumerism.”
E. What do I mean by consumerism?
1. Did you know that there was a time in our history when the major economic goal of Americans was sufficiency?
2. An economic historian named Max Weber points out that before the rise of our present consumer economy, employers had a difficult time financially motivating workers to increase their productivity beyond a certain level.
3. For example, if a farmer offered to pay a hired hand an increase in wage per acre of hay mowed, the worker would mow less, not more acres.
4. The hired hand would work until he made the same amount he ordinarily did, and then quit.
5. In other words, the opportunity of earning more was less attractive than that of working less.
F. But all that changed around the end of the 1800’s.
1. The Industrial Revolution created such efficiencies of scale, and had such an excess of production capacity, that it soon reached a state of crisis: the great factories needed to keep the production lines humming and the generators turning, but there was a huge gap between production and consumption.
2. People reached a point where they had what they thought they needed, and they simply stopped buying.
3. The factory owners were desperate to find some way to change American’s economic habits, to induce them to buy more, so the modern science of ADVERTISING was born.
4. Certainly, there had been advertising before, but it mainly consisted of notices about goods for sale, directed to those who were already interested.
5. Modern advertisers, on the other hand, soon learned how to create needs.
G. In 1901, the Thompson Red Book of Advertising stated, “Advertising aims to teach people that they have wants, which they did not recognize before, and where such wants can be best supplied.
1. Henry Crowell of Quaker Oats noted that his aim in advertising “was to do educational and constructive work so as to awaken an interest in and create a demand for cereals where none existed.”
2. And in the 1920’s the federal government even pitched in: the Department of Commerce was expanded to assist businesses in their goal of increasing consumption.
3. Thus for over a century there has been an organized effort to turn Americans into a nation of consumers, and it has succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.
4. For example: In 1976 the average American supermarket carried 9000 products. Today it stocks 30,000.
5. The typical produce section in the mid 70’s had 65 items; today it carries 285.
6. Back in the earlier days of television, there were just a few channels, now with cable or satellite there are hundreds of channels.
7. In Rodney Clapp’s article in Christianity Today (10/96) titled “Why the Devil Takes Visa”, he wrote that the average American is exposed to 3,500 advertising messages per day.
8. Researchers have calculated that 100 years ago the average American had 72 “wants” and 16 of them were considered “necessities”.
9. Today, they say that average Americans have around 500 “wants” and 100 of them are “needs.” (Joe Barnett, “The Fine Art of Gratitude”, Gospel Advocate, 11/21/85, page 675)
H. So, what is the point of all this?
1. For centuries religion had taught the value of contentment and discouraged the excesses of greed, lust and covetousness.
2. But here we find ourselves in a very different environment.
3. Our modern economy is quite literally built on the principle of insatiability – an organized, institutionalized, professionally maintained spirit of discontentment.
4. A retailing analyst named Victor Lebow, candidly admitted in 1955, “Our enormously productive economy…demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, or ego satisfaction, in consumption…We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing rate.”
5. And so, we have been taught by advertisers and by society in general that we will find genuine satisfaction in the purchase, possession, and consumption of material goods.
6. But has all of this led to greater satisfaction and general happiness? NO!
7. Those who were born into this affluence (those born after 1945) have markedly higher rates of depression, unhappiness, substance abuse and suicide.
8. How can this paradox be explained?
9. Listen to this quote from an address to the American Psychological Association made by Martin E. P. Seligman, “In the past 30 years (1996) we have learned, in part because of the advertising industry, that limitless prosperity and personal possessions can be expected and attained. But when soaring expectations are not met, limitless pleasure is not forthcoming, or personal goals are not reached, it is easy for people to feel disillusionment and to be inclined to escape from reality through drugs or alcohol or both.”
I. Look at the next few verses that follow the ones we looked at earlier in 1 Timothy 6. (verses 9-10)
1. “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
J. Now, please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying this morning: “I’m not against the convenience of the marketplace.
1. I enjoy the ability to have fresh fruit in the winter, and I’m glad to have choices when I shop.
2. But we need to remember that one the greatest freedoms of all is the ability to choose NOT to purchase something we don’t need.
3. There is great freedom in being able to say “ENOUGH”!
4. Just because we have the money, doesn’t mean we have to spend it on ourselves.
5. Without the ability to say, “ENOUGH” we will never be content, and therefore we can never be truly thankful for what we already have.
K. Contentment in an age of consumerism is truly a counter-cultural, revolutionary idea.
1. The true practice of Thanksgiving, in our age, will have to be more than a holiday.
2. True thanksgiving must be an attitude and a lifestyle.
3. So, how can we learn to be more thankful and insulate ourselves from the consumeristic spirit of our age?
4. Let me give you four suggestions.
A. First of all, Be Thankful.
1. You’ve heard it said that “The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.”
2. But it is an arithmetic that we must master.
3. One thing that really helps is for us just to step back and appreciate what we have and remember where it came from, or better yet from whom it came.
4. Diana and I work together on many of the jobs around the house. One of them is laundry.
a. I carry the laundry downstairs. She organizes it and begins the washing process (See I would get things wrong – what should be washed together? Cold or hot water? Bleach or no bleach?)
b. When the wash cycle is over, I transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer and carry up the dried cloths for Diana to fold.
c. But here’s the thing that has become my habit. Every time I transfer those clothes, I thank the Lord that we have a washer and dryer, and that they are reliable.
d. They are not new or fancy, but they work, and they make our lives easier, and I am grateful for that.
5. I do a similar thing when I start our cars. I’m thankful that we have cars that get us where we need to go. They aren’t new or fancy, but they are reliable.
6. Thankfulness is the attitude that leads to contentment.
7. This, of course, is one of the practices we often do at meal times, when we pause to thank God for what he has given us.
8. It needs not be just a ritual, but something that reminds us that we have a great God who has blessed us richly.
9. So, our first step is to strive to be sincerely thankful at all times.
B. Second, Be Thrifty.
1. Living within our means is almost a foreign concept.
2. Credit is easy to get, and so hard to payback.
3. If we cut back on our wants, and purchase what we need more wisely, then we will be amazed at how much money we actually have left over, which leads to our third suggestion.
C. Third, Be Generous.
1. Giving is one of the best ways to keep consumerism and materialism under control.
2. Back to our passage in Timothy. What did Paul command about money?
3. “Verse 17ff, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Tim. 6:17-19)
4. Being generous helps us to put our trust in God and demonstrates that money does not control us, but is just a tool to be used to glorify God.
D. Finally, let me suggest that we Be Focused. To Simplify.
1. Jesus said, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
2. Way back in the 1960’s the Beatles had it right. They told us, “Money can’t buy me love.”
3. Let’s focus on the quality of life, not simply the quantity of possessions.
4. It is true that the best things in life are free.
5. Rudy Carlson has taught me a Swedish statement that was a favorite of his father’s “So lite vi har, men so bra vi more.” What does it mean? “How little we have, but how good we feel.”
6. Paul suggested, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly thing. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:2-3)
7. So, let’s stay focused. Let’s not bog ourselves down too much with earthly things.
A. Unfortunately, true thanksgiving often gets crowded out by discontent.
B. Let’s not be like the little boy who received a piece of pie from his grandmother.
1. His mother prompted him, “Now Johnny, what do you say?”
2. Johnny said, “Grandma, Can I have another piece?”
C. Paul wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
D. So, let’s work on being more thankful, thrifty, generous, and focused.