Summary: Is our thankfulness, honestly thankful? A brief look at thankfulness at a thanksgiving service
One morning a woman who was a known atheist stepped out of her home on the hillside and was taken back by what a beautiful morning it was. The Cook Inlet sparkled, the air was fresh and crisp, the sky was a blue as she had ever seen it and Denali loomed over the whole scene. She was so overwhelmed she shouted out at the top of her lungs, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for this wonderful morning!”
A neighbor happened to be walking by at the very moment the woman was shouting out her joy. “Who are you talking to?” asked this neighbor, surprised by the woman’s obvious enthusiasm.
She paused, and thought for a time, yet for all her efforts, she could come up with no answer. She had no idea who she could be talking too?
We as humans are created to respond in thanksgiving, we are created to respond in thanksgiving to the one who this woman for the life of her could not name: Jesus Christ.
If you went around downtown Anchorage this evening and asked random people that you ran into, “Are you thankful?” My guess is that it would be difficult to find a person who is not thankful for something. However, is being thankful always, honestly, being thankful?;
Biblically I see three attitudes of thankfulness, two of which are not really being thankful at all,
First some people think that thankfulness is simply unnecessary.
Some people do not even consider being thankful simply because they think they deserve what they have, in fact they think that they deserve more. You know these people, you may even be related to one. Honestly, they work hard, honestly they place a lot on the line, they sacrifice, they take great risk, they are people who make things happen. Remember the rich farmer Jesus talked about in one of his parables? He was the one who was overconfident about his future prosperity and this made him ungrateful for his year of plenty. This man looked around and realized that his hard work had produced so much surplus that he was not going to have enough room to store all his crops, he decided to build bigger and better barns. Luke 12:18, 19,“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’
Notice, this man doesn’t even take God into consideration. The man does not even consider God, because he sees no reason to, after all, he was the one who planned well and worked hard. What does Jesus think about such a man? Luke 12:20, 21 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
What this man was doing, was in practice, living as an atheist. A person who does not feel the need to thank God is much worse than not being thankful; it is unbelief. Now it doesn’t matter how religious this man could claim to be, his actions show his true belief. His true belief was atheistic, for he did not see God in his plans or in the results of his plans.
How many times have we claimed to be devote Christians, but refused to be thankful to God because we were blinded by our own achievement?
Secondly, we can be hypocritical in our attitude about thanksgiving.
In Luke 18:11-12, Jesus tells of , “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
What I love is that Jesus tells us that this man isn’t praying to God, but that he is praying to himself. Even though he claims to pray to God, and even uses God’s name, Jesus makes clear that the man is praying to himself.
The man is praying a false prayer of thanksgiving. And I think the thing to note is that, God doesn’t even listen. At least God paid attention to the man who acted as an atheist, but the man who is a hypocrite, God doesn’t give the time of day. So this man’s prayer of thanks is worthless. He prays a prayer that he didn’t need to pray, and God turns away.
So, what we have seen so far is two ways to be self thankful in our thankfulness. First, by not even acknowledging God we are self thankful in our thankfulness because we are thankful for what we ourselves have done. And, second, though we outwardly direct our thankfulness to God, we are be praying a false prayer of thanksgiving because in reality we are only thanking ourselves and from God’s point of view, we are simply talking to ourselves. I guess this man at the Temple practiced an early form of self encouragement we see pushed by many pop psychologist today.