Summary: All of life is a gift. Christians are invited to celebrate God’s gifts in both good times and bad.
Deuteronomy 8:7-18 “It’s All a Gift”
One Thanksgiving season a family was seated around their table, looking at the annual holiday bird. From the oldest to the youngest, they were to express their praise. When they came to the 5-year-old in the family, he began by looking at the turkey and expressing his thanks to the turkey, saying although he had not tasted it he knew it would be good. After that rather novel expression of thanksgiving, he began with a more predictable line of credits, thanking his mother for cooking the turkey and his father for buying the turkey. But then he went beyond that. He joined together a whole hidden multitude of benefactors, linking them with cause and effect. He said, "I thank you for the checker at the grocery store who checked out the turkey. I thank you for the grocery store people who put it on the shelf. I thank you for the farmer who made it fat. I thank you for the man who made the feed. I thank you for those who brought the turkey to the store." Using his Columbo-like little mind, he traced the turkey all the way from its origin to his plate. And then at the end he solemnly said "Did I leave anybody out?" His 2-year-older brother, embarrassed by all those proceedings, said, "God." Solemnly and without being flustered at all, the 5-year-old said, "I was about to get to him." Well, isn’t that the question about which we ought to think at Thanksgiving time? Are we really going to get to him this Thanksgiving? [Getting Around to God, Citation: Joel Gregory, "The Unlikely Thanker," Preaching Today, Tape No. 110.]
This topic of Thanksgiving is not limited to our annual observance. In our Scripture text for today, we read about God’s concern that his people continue to be thankful when they inhabit the Promised Land.
THE GOD OF ABUNDANCE
The God who we worship is a God of abundance; not a God of scarcity. God miraculously and abundantly provided for the Children of Israel as God led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. God fed them with manna, brought them water out of solid rock, caused their clothes and shoes to never wear out, and covered them with a cloud to protect them from the sun as they traveled.
God was giving the Children of Israel a land of abundance. In the first part of our Scripture lesson, God described the land as having plenty of water and a great deal of farmable land. It is a land filled was filled with good fruit and grapes for wine. The hills in the Promised Land contained all the minerals that they to produce farm implements and armor. In this land the people would lack no good thing. God wanted the very best for his people.
The Promised Land that the Lord was giving to his people looked a great deal like the land God has given us. We have been blessed with a rich land that is over flowing with good things. God has blessed us abundantly.
In such a land of abundance, the Children of Israel would have every reason to offer thanksgiving and praise to God for the great gift that he had given them. This is not to say, though, that some people still wouldn’t complain. There would be some unfulfilled desire, or some discomfort to complain about and expect God to fix.
THE CURSE OF RICHES
In verse 11, the Lord expressed his concern that the people do not forget him or wander away from him.
It is ironic that wealth and comfort more often than not lead us away from a relationship with God, rather than drawing us closer. Most of us know that this is true because we have experienced this in our lives.
• We forget our dependence on God. We look upon our little kingdoms as something that we have created by our own hard work, astounding intellect, and shrewd decisions.
• Our ego begins to inflate. We become self-centered and selfish. We begin to believe that the world revolves around us.
• Our prosperity brings with it enough things and opportunities that God is nudged out of the center of our lives. We get too busy for prayer, devotional reading and Bible study.
Praise and Thanksgiving dry up in our lives, because it is counter to the path we are walking and the goal we want to achieve. To offer thanks is to confess dependence, to acknowledge that others, especially God, have the power to benefit us, to admit that our lives are better because of God’s movement.
OUR GOD IN GOOD AND BAD TIMES
God is our God whether we praise him or not. The Lord is with us in the difficult times. The wilderness that the Israelites wandered through was filled with dangers. God didn’t abandon them and wait for them to arrive at the borders of the Promised Land. Rather, God walked with them and provided for them and protected them. We know that if the Lord acted in them manner with the Israelites, that he will do the same in our lives when we walk through the wildernesses of life.