Summary: Real thanksgiving is done with the right attitude. The prayer of the Pharisee was arrogant and despising toward the Publican, therefore it did not count. This sermon was developed for a community Thanksgiving service.

The Thanksgiving that Doesn’t Count

STEVE MILLER, November 23, 2004

Luke 18:9-14 (NKJV)

Do you remember the television commercial for Citibank with the two ladies in the grocery store? The one puts her hand on the other’s tummy and asks when the baby is due? The woman looks at her like she’s crazy and says, “I’m not pregnant.” Not knowing what else to say the woman replies, “Thank you.” With a simple thank you all offense is forgotten and they embrace. Citibank’s tag says, “It’s amazing what a simple thank you can do.”

It is amazing what a “thank you” can do but the lady in the commercial was disingenuous with her thanksgiving. And it really didn’t count. Jesus once told a story that proves that even when we give thanks to God, it may not count for anything, unless we give thanks with the right attitude.

CORE CONCEPT: For thanksgiving to count, we must GIVE THANKS WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE.

The parable of the Pharisee and a tax collector tells us that both went to pray at the same place and same time but each came with very different attitudes. As a result, only the man who came with the right attitude went away right with God. The humble man cried in repentance while the arrogant man boasted in self-righteousness. The humble man’s prayer was a plea for help. The arrogant man thanked God that he needed no help.

1.) Verse 9 tells us to whom the story is directed. It says that Jesus spoke this parable to we who are arrogant to trust in ourselves for righteousness. Thus, THE THANKSGIVING THAT DOESN’T COUNT IS, first, ARROGANT.

We see this reflected in the Pharisee’s prayer, who said, “‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’” (Luke 18:11-12, NLT)

The Kershaw community gives its due to those who look the part and play the role but we tend to forget that… though the Pharisee boasted many religious badges of honor,… Jesus’ story tells us that in the end, the Pharisee’s thanksgiving didn’t count. And Jesus tells us that no matter how much thanksgiving is verbalized here tonight, if we do not come with humbleness, we will not leave here right with God.

This message floored its original listeners even more so then than now. The full impact is lost to us because we know too well that Jesus often condemned the self-righteous behaviors of the Pharisees. When we hear, “Pharisee,” we hear, “Hypocrite.” But when they heard “Pharisee,” they heard “hero.”

If we tried to modernize the characters, we could tell the story like this: Two men went up to church to pray, one was Billy Graham, and the other was a child molester… It was just that shocking for Jesus to say that a first century tax man would have been accepted over a Pharisee. But that is about the equivalent of what Jesus said.

2) We also notice that verse 9 tells us that Jesus is talking to people who trusted in themselves to be right with God AND Secondly, THAT THEY DESPISED OTHERS. So THE THANKSGIVING THAT DOESN’T COUNT IS ARROGANT AND ONE THAT DESPISES OTHERS.

You see, self-righteous arrogant types are also bigots. They’re intolerant about others receiving the same opportunity of God’s grace, which they believe they monopolize. Arrogance always leads to comparing ourselves to others around us. We would say, “Surely God must accept a Billy Graham.” The trouble is… I’m no Billy Graham. So to make ourselves feel better we say, “I may be no Billy Graham, but I know I’m better than him.”

The church of Kershaw is divided because we rate one another on our scales of arrogance and scorn. One may say, “Our church has the spirit,” —meaning others don’t. “Our church has mission hearts,” —meaning we care better than you. “Our church is theologically grounded”—meaning we don’t cater to shallowness like your church. And what of denominationalism? What of our competitive spirits when it comes to building projects? And what of our racism? Our Pharisaical hearts shout thanks that we’re good enough to come to an extra worship service on a Tuesday night; or because we can handle worshipping in a “mixed” crowd for an hour, once a year.

Without the right attitude, our thanksgiving has become nothing but self-congratulatory prayers that do not count. Jesus’ parable tells us that our arrogance and despise for our brothers and sisters will not be justified in His Church. We will not leave here right with God until we become humbled as the man who fell to his knees and saw his need was greater than all he could boast about.

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Ann Sutton

commented on Nov 7, 2006

I never thought of using this particular Scripture reading for a Thanksgiving sermon. You've done an excellent job, and have given me some thoughts for my own Thanksgiving message. Thank you!

Steve Miller

commented on Oct 30, 2013

Thank you. This message meant so much to me. I felt very strong about it and have used it in a couple settings. I hope it was as meaningful to you as it was to me.

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