Why Give Thanks?

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We know we get the day off from work. Typically we enjoy an oversized dinner after which the men retreat to the living room to sleep it off under the glow of a football game while the women talk about the men as they do the dishes.

That’s what our holiday often looks like.

But is that Thanksgiving?

We’ve all been touched by messages about why it’s so good to be thankful. And on some level, we recognize that if we lived by clichés our life really would be better.

After all, it seems like it would be better to always live with an attitude of gratitude.

But there’s so much we are frustrated by.

This is particularly true for those of us who feel a tremendous sense of anxiety about the state of the world.

We have no idea when the economy is going to recover.

The First Amendment is under serious attack.

The threat from radical Islamic terror is no longer just “over there”.

That’s not to mention all the things in our own lives and families that are broken.

If you feel like it would be nice to be thankful but reality is in the way, spend a moment thinking about the premise of thankfulness.

Thankfulness is a function of our reality compared to our expectations. When reality is better than what we expect or feel we deserve, we’re thankful. When reality is worse than we expect or feel we deserve, we become bitter and angry.

If you win the lottery, you’re going to be thankful because, though they told you that “some lucky dog’s gonna win it”, you never thought that lucky dog was going to be you.

I don’t thank people every time they walk by me without punching me in the nose. After all, I have the expectation that they will not.

Instead of being thankful to each person who doesn’t assault me, I would be quite put off by the person who did.

So it is in all of life. The moment we feel entitled to something is the moment we cease to be thankful for it. After all, I deserve it.

For Christians, a sense of entitlement is particularly troubling because we know that we deserve hell.

I don’t want to minimize the real pain that exists in people’s lives in an attempt to encourage gratitude. Nor do I think a recognition of how little we are genuinely entitled to should cause us to be apathetic to the needs of others.

But this Thanksgiving, if you have a few minutes, sit down with your family and make a list of the things you think you are entitled to. My guess is that the more things you have on that list, the likelier it will be that you are finding it hard to fully participate in the spirit of this particular holiday.

But, if the only item on the list of things you deserve is “hell”?

Well, Happy Thanksgiving indeed.

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