Thanksgiving: The Last Exclusively Christian Holiday

Among the saddest results of the fall of man is the phenomenon of making the sacred into the secular.  One could point to any number of happenings throughout  history.  However, in all of human history, no other time period has offered us such a striking example as these modern times, particularly in the United States.  In my opinion, never has a culture so desperately held to the trappings of Christian thought and so thoroughly rejected the actual Christian ideas expressed therein.  We swear in our politicians on Bibles and tolerate lying, cheating, and outright hatred of God from them.  We take Sundays off of work and yet fill them up with everything but church.

When it comes to holidays, we put this tendency into overdrive.  Christmas is about reindeer, snow, snowmen, trees, and of course presents.  Anything but the incarnation of Christ, the God-Man.  Everything but “the Word became flesh”.  At least we still regard it as a high holiday, so much that the eve of Christmas is also a minor holiday for most people.  Easter is virtually non-existent.  Other than being one of the 2 days when the other 89% of professing Christians attend church, the rest of the world decides to have ham for some reason they can’t explain.  Good Friday is a non factor in most people’s thinking, even most professing Christians.

Thanksgiving has largely managed to survive as a non-commercialized holiday. Mostly. Black Friday looms on the horizon like a mongrel horde ready to beseige a city. Certainly much has been done by the enemies of Christ to turn Thanksgiving into football, turkey, and family tradition. Nonetheless, there remains the truth that we are taking a seemingly random day in November, closing many businesses and institutions, for the express purpose of giving thanks.

It is only from a Biblical worldview that such an idea would make any sense. Islam carries an element of thankfulness but it does not dominate the thinking of the devout Muslim. The pagan religions (such as Hinduism) have no concept of thankfulness because their theology operates on a barter system with their gods (jump through these hoops, get your reward). The mystic religions (Buddhism, etc.) center upon enlightenment in their selfish pursuit of self improvement in the mold of their own ethic. The idea of giving thanks is unique to the Judeo-Christian system.

It is the people of God who are instructed to thank God for His perfect provision in every circumstance. Every holy person in Scripture models an attitude of thankfulness.

David wrote a Psalm of thanks when the ark had been brought to tent and was secure:

Then on that day David first assigned Asaph and his relatives to give thanks to the Lord.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders.
Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. {1Ch 16:7-10}

Thankfulness also has a place in the Psalms, from David and many others:

Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. {Psm 30:4}

I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people. {Psm 35:18}

It is good to give thanks to the Lord
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning
And Your faithfulness by night, {Psm 92:1-2}

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. {Psm 100:4}

Daniel gave thanks for God’s provision of the interpretation of the king’s dream, and he expresses this thanks even before seeing the king:

“To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,
For You have given me wisdom and power;
Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You,
For You have made known to us the king’s matter.” {Dan 2:23}

Hezekiah knew it was an important part of worshiping God after restoring the temple:

And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the LORD. {2Ch 31:2}

The New Testament is no stranger to thankfulness either. Jesus modeled it for us during His miracle of feeding the crowd:

and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. {Mat 15:36}

Paul, in Romans, first thanks God for the believers in Rome:

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. {Rom 1:8}

And later remarks that a lack of thankfulness is a sure sign of rebellion against God:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. {Rom 1:21}

We even see thankfulness as a part of worship in heaven:

And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God,
saying,
“We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign…” {Rev 11:16-17}

Again and again thankfulness manifests itself in the life of God’s faithful elect. It is a sure marker of regeneration in a person when their attitude becomes one of being thankful to God for all they have. It is pleasing to God to thank Him, and surely offends Him when we are not. It is undoubtedly a distinctly Christian characteristic.

Notice how much of the Scripture quoted above incorporates worship to God. That’s because one cannot be thankful without having a recipient of the thanks. And when one thanks God, it is a tacit admission of our own lack of power to provide and God’s ability and common grace to give His creation all it needs. This is why it is a distinct Christian experience. It involves bowing the knee, it means surrendering, it means God gets the credit. The sinful world rejects God, it hates Him. The sinful world, by definition, cannot be thankful.

This is why when a sinner “is thankful” it is good and right for us to ask “to whom?”. How can someone who refuses to make Jesus Lord of their life in all other aspects suddenly begin to make Him Lord by acknowledging His goodness and worshiping Him through thanks?

Here we sit in modern day Babylon where we murder children by the millions, marry men to men, and gennerally turn holiness on its head preferring debauchery; and even so our culture takes time out of its schedule to say thank you. That is a blessing, a step in the right direction, and an opportunity we ought not miss. For one day, there is the chance for Pagans to at least act like Christians.

It’s not perfect. Nor, do I believe is it pleasing to God (Isa 1:14), but it’s something. A reminder of our Country’s long dead Christian roots, a chance to reflect on the One who provides all we have, or at the very least a chance for the followers of Christ to ask the sinners among us to Whom they are thankful.

No doubt, the materialistic and greedy horde at the gates of Thanksgiving will one day overcome the obsticles and fold Thanksgiving into the decadent shopping season. But until then, we ought to thank and praise God that our culture still sets aside a day, an opportunity, a feast, to say thanks. Indeed, brothers and sisters, we have one more thing for which we can thank God.


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