Summary: Thanksgiving message

Giving Thanks

Thursday is Thanksgiving, a time when we come together with friends and family and enjoy the blessings of God. We fix large family meals, sit around and eat until we are full, stuffed actually and continue in conversation, laughter and relaxation. This is the atmosphere for those who are fortunate to have something. There is another group of people who this time of year brings about, not Thanksgiving, but a sense of depression, a sense of loss, a sense of waste. Although they have everything that they could want, they are not happy and seeing others enjoying a time of celebration with family and friends is painful for them – mainly because they do not have them. Finally there are those that this time of year is not special, just another day to survive for them. Actually this is the worse time of year in some ways because they do not have the “daily necessities” it takes to live as we do. They do not have the normal things that we take for granted things that they would cherish that could be found in our trashcans. We are the privileged. When we reach out and help someone less fortunate than we are, we wear it like a badge of honor. I hate to see shows that are trying to raise money for the needy and they parade these kids around who are obviously in need in order to play on the sympathies of those who are watching. Maybe our bowels of compassion would not be open if we did not see the need. We are the blessed, we are the privileged, we are the ones who can make a difference – but do we?

I read a story that was told by Joel Lohr. It goes like this: “The story is told of two old friends who bumped into one another on the street one day. One of them looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, “what has the world done to you, my old friend?” The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you. Three week ago, an uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.” “That’s a lot of money” his friend said. “But two weeks ago, a cousin I never knew died and left me eighty-five thousand free and clear.” “Sound like you’ve been blessed…” “You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “Last week my great aunt died passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million.” Now his friend was really confused. “Then why do you look so glum?” His sad friend said “This week I have gotten nothing.”

I want to relate this true story to you that was told by Carla Powell. “A Money magazine article several years ago told of the life of a woman who saved 80% of everything she earned. She invested it all in the stock market and turned it into a $22 million fortune within 50 years. This would appear to be a true success story. As you read the article you begin to wonder whether her sacrifice was worth it to make her money. She made the money legally and with hard work, but in the process of building her fortune, she alienated her family and made no friends. She walked to work to save the cost of bus fare. She wore clothes for years until they were tattered and worn. She limited herself to spending a few dollars a week on groceries. In the middle of all of this thrift though, she never bothered to invest in any relationship. She died without a single friend. In the last five years of her life, she did not receive a personal phone call. Her broker said, “A big day for her was walking down to the Merrill Lynch vault near Wall Street to visit her stock certificates.” Though her financial portfolio sounds successful, this story is a tragic illustration of a life driven astray by a misguided set of priorities.”

What is the significance of these two stories? It is simple, one talk about entitlement and the other talks about priorities. Two very different concepts that I want to mold together as we look at why we should give thanks. Remember what I talked about last week – Getting Beyond “I Can Do” and how this relates back to our attitude. Our ability to give thanks is also directly related to our attitudes. Let’s examine the first story: In this story the man had received financial gain through the deaths of family members. It had happened three weeks in a row. In the 4th week he was depressed and feeling down because no one else had died and left him anything. It is amazing what happens when we receive something on a regular basis – when it was new, we appreciated it, then we begin to expect it and finally we begin to believe that we are entitled to it. If you look at the process that we go through, in the first stage when it is new, we can give thanks. But as we transition from it being new to us receiving it on a regular basis, we begin to take it for granted – as far as giving thanks. Finally we stop giving thanks altogether because now we are entitled to it and therefore we do not “have” to give thanks for it. The feeling of entitlement shuts down our ability to give praise. I am guilty of this just like you are. There have been many times that I have failed to thank Nikki for preparing a wonderful meal – even if it is something simple. I have failed to say thank you to my kids for doing simple things for me – why, I too think I am entitled to some things. All of us have failed at some point to thank God for His blessings. I mean, we pray often, but most of the time we are asking for something and not just praising or thanking Him for what He has already done. We expect God to take care of us and sometimes in that process we fail to appreciate it or thank Him for it. Remember entitlement shuts down your ability to give thanks.

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