Summary: A defense, from Scripture, of the positive value of Thanksgiving as not only good but necessary for our individual and corporate spiritual, emotional and societal health!
Series: “7 Spiritually Healthy Habits”
Perth Bible Church Sunday, November 22, 2009 AM
Rev. Todd G. Leupold
Thanksgiving week is upon us. As both a holiday and a 'national spirit' this concept of Thanksgiving has both been taken for granted and criticized. We've long heard the debates regarding the circumstances and realities of the earliest Colonial 'Thanksgivings.' The politics have always been contentious, and that is to be unexpected. However, the one thing most everyone could seemingly agree on was the positive value of the spirit of thankfulness. Yet, today, even that is being questioned. Such as:
Is an attitude of gratitude really good for humanity? Does it represent our best interests? Or is it perhaps something foisted upon us to weaken and control us? How can one honor, respect and advance oneself while crediting everything to outside influences and sources? Doesn't thankfulness, then, inhibit our own sense of self-worth, self-esteem, confidence and ambition? Does not that, in turn, unnecessarily restrain and limit the potential achievements of both the individual and collective humanity?
Friends, these are serious questions that are being increasingly asked and taught in our society – especially by our schools, counselors and philosophers. We live in a time in which it is openly being questioned whether thankfulness is really a virtue or a vice. Increasingly, the answer being propagated is that it is a handicap. This is especially and doubly true in respect to an attitude of thanks toward a 'greater power' or 'Being!'
One voice that continues to grow in volume and influence is that of the self-proclaimed atheist, Christopher Hitchens. He is probably best known for his fairly recent book, “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” A couple of years ago he debated Dinesh D'Souza, a fellow at Hoover Institution at Standford University. During this debate, he negatively described Christians as people who are “condemned to live in this posture of gratitude, permanent gratitude, to an unalterable dictatorship in whose installation we had no say.”
Consider also the words of the retired and proudly controversial former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, John Shelby Spong. In his book, Jesus for the Non-Religious, he contends that the traditional understanding of the cross of Christ has enslaved Christians to a condition of gratitude that has harmed them greatly. Specifically, Spong writes:
“What does the cross mean? How is it to be understood? Clearly the old pattern of seeing the cross as the place where the price of the fall was paid is totally inappropriate. Aside from encouraging guilt, justifying the need for divine punishment and causing an incipient sadomasochism that has endured with a relentless tenacity through the centuries, the traditional understanding of the cross of Christ has become inoperative on every level. As I have noted previously, a rescuing deity results in gratitude, never in expanded humanity. Constant gratitude, which the story of the cross seems to encourage, creates only weakness, childishness and dependency” (pg. 277).
Could there be truth to these comments? How are we to respond? This morning, it is my intent to present from Scripture a defense of the positive value of Thanksgiving as not only good but necessary for our individual and corporate spiritual, emotional and societal health!
To this end, let us re-examine the main questions about the impact of a spirit of thankfulness in our lives. What, truly, are it's results:
1.) FORCED DEPENDENCY or PERMITTED LIBERTY
2.) WEAKNESS or STRENGTH
3.) CHILDISHNESS or MATURITY
4.) INWARD or OUTWARD
1.) FORCED DEPENDENCY or PERMITTED LIBERTY
The modern, humanistic claim is that to be focused on thankfulness is to accept and submit to a dependency toward the object of your thanks. Therefore, they argue, it is an attitude that can only lead to slavery.
Scripture, however, clearly teaches that we are ALL born slaves to sin and that the only path to freedom is to seek, accept and appreciate God Almighty's merciful favor!
Jesus began His public ministry with this fulfillment of Scripture:
Luke 4:17-19 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
After and because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross on our behalf and the opportunity for all who believe by faith through grace to be spiritually re-born and filled with His Holy Spirit, we are further encouraged:
Romans 8:1-6 Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit's law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin's domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law's requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those whose lives are according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those whose lives are according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace.