Thanksgiving: a lifestyle of giving thanks

Dr. Richard D. Adams - Wesley United Methodist Church

Dr. Richard D. Adams

Wesley United Methodist Church

Are you still feeling the turkey? It’s the weekend of Thanksgiving, a couple of days past the holiday itself. I hope, however, that the spirit of giving thanks remains with you (and me) well beyond even the leftovers. I’m sure you have heard this before, but true thanksgiving is a year-round issue. It is in fact a lifelong issue.

From a Christian perspective, thanksgiving is a lifestyle. When we experience the blessings of our extravagantly generous God, we are moved to express gratitude. True thanksgiving is much more than words. It is actively looking for and engaging in expressions of thanksgiving.

What do these actions look like? Quite simply, anything that shares our blessings with others. That’s how we truly give thanks; we pass on our blessings. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a story that illustrates a life of gratitude. We ordinarily call this the parable of the last judgment. But notice, those commended by Jesus in the story were not even aware they were serving Christ. Isn’t that amazing? They were so focused on sharing life’s blessings they were not thinking of a reward they might receive. Their actions were simply the outward expression of a vital relationship with their God. They had received, and in turn, they gave.

So, what kind of giving is appropriate to express thanks for God’s immeasurable gifts to us? That’s as varied as the type of blessings we receive. Some of our gifts are material, some are relational, some emotional, some spiritual. Are you materially blessed? Share with those who are not. We have agencies in our community and beyond who do an outstanding job of placing resources with those who are in need.

Donate or volunteer. Are you blessed with a caring family and community? Spend time with someone who feels alone and forgotten. Are you blessed with a close relationship with your God? Find a caring way to relate to someone who feels God doesn’t care or has forgotten them.

Living thanks also means sharing our blessings in the global community. So often when we are making decisions based on our fears we cut ourselves off from the neighbor in need. Rather than faithfully sharing our blessings, we “pile on.” That is, we add to the burden of those who have suffered violence or otherwise been victimized. What a difference it makes when we respond from the perspective of faith rather than fear.

We live in a world where many people have lost home, possessions, and family because they were caught up in war or even used as pawns in political conflict. As people blessed to live in a land of abundance, how do we relate to such folks? How do we relate in a way that expresses our gratitude for God’s blessings?

Particularly as we enter Advent and approach Christmas, we have choices about what helps or what stands in the way of others experiencing God’s blessings. Why do we as Christians sometimes feel our primary responsibility is expressing criticism rather than joy? If someone wishes you “happy holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” why not give thanks that someone is wishing you well during this season that includes a number of different holidays? Is your Christmas really defined by what a company prints or does not print on their coffee cup? If you want the spirit of Christmas to be experienced, then share that spirit. Pass on the blessing of God-with-us that Christmas is all about.

A lifestyle of giving thanks is about helping others express blessing in their lives. When we have been genuinely touched by the numerous blessings of our God, it moves us to return thanks by sharing the blessing. Where can you share a blessing this week and throughout the holy seasons of Advent and Christmas? What can you do that causes someone to give thanks that God sent a caring, sharing person into their busy, burdened life.

I can guarantee you that criticism will not turn a person’s attention to the God of love, healing, reconciliation, and full life. But a caring act of sharing opens that possibility. What an amazing opportunity! We can open the possibility of someone in need experiencing the blessings of our God. I am so thankful for a God who gives me and you such a privilege.

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