Summary: We must move beyond "comparative gratitude" and an awareness of our good fortune, to "vertical thanks to God who is the source of all blessings.
Introduction: Comparative Gratitude
Thanksgiving, like Christmas, is firmly woven into the American fabric as a tradition. I don’t mean this in a critical way – it is a wonderful occasion to gather families and to share a meal together (something rarer and rarer in this day).
Just as we cannot truly celebrate the meaning of Christmas without looking to the birth of our Savior Jesus, we cannot really understand what Thanksgiving is for without looking to the gracious God who blesses us.
· Lots of people really try hard to observe these two holidays without making them holy days. They do their best to play Santa and buy gifts for everyone in the family, but they ignore the Babe in the Manger who is God’s precious gift to us.
· At Thanksgiving, they cook a banquet for their family and friends, and may even share a sincere thought or two about all the people they are thankful to – their husband or wife, their children, the company they work for, the neighborhood, their nation.
· Without God at the center, there is something missing – they miss celebrating the SOURCE of all those blessings, and that source is God.
We cannot fully express our thanks to God only by comparing our lot with others. Seeing we are more fortunate than others certainly puts things in perspective, and helps us be more grateful for what we do have.
Some of the most ungrateful creatures on earth are American teenage girls. Having had two of them, I feel qualified to speak on the subject. Dear Abby published letters from two teenage girls one Thanksgiving. The first one came from one of these spoiled brats.
Happiness is knowing your parents won’t almost kill you if you come home a little late. Happiness is having your own bedroom...Happiness is getting the telephone you’ve been praying for...Happiness is having parents who don’t fight. Happiness is something I don’t have.
(Signed), Fifteen and Unhappy.
The unhappy fifteen-year-old’s letter to "Dear Abby" generated quite a response from both teenagers and parents. The most profound letter came from another teenager…
Happiness is being able to walk. Happiness is being able to talk. Happiness is being able to hear. Unhappiness is reading a letter from a fifteen-year-old girl who can do all of these things and still says she isn’t happy. I can see. I cannot talk. I cannot hear. I cannot walk.
(Signed) Thirteen and VERY Happy.
There is a noble saying that sums up this “comparative gratitude.” Seeing an unfortunate person, we say, “There, but the grace of God go I.” By comparison, we are blessed, but have we really thanked the God who gave us this blessing? Remember the Pharisee who prayed, “O God, I thank you I am not like this tax-collector…” (Luke 18:11)
Americans are pretty good at “comparative gratitude.” Missionaries and those serving in foreign lands remind us just how different life is where in the “third world” countries, and just how blessed we are to live here.
If we really want to live a life that is thankful to God, we have to get past our material blessings and get to the gracious God who gives us all gifts. We cannot just “look around” we also need to “look up.”