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"Thank Who?"

As we approach the Thanksgiving Season, we anticipate the sights, sounds and smells it brings. We always look forward to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which showcases 70-foot characters who are a puncture hole away from a disaster and former American Idol stars who pretend to sing to a pre-recorded track (Come on, you know it’s lip-synced. It’s 20 degrees outside, their lips are quivering, and their voice sounds like it’s recorded in a world-class studio!). Later that day we pig out on turkey and yell at the TV when the Dallas Cowboys’ defense gives up the game-winning touchdown (Oh… that’s just me? Those blasted Cowboys can’t cover anybody!). At the end of the day we start to get a bit nostalgic and reflect on our lives. We begin thinking about what we’re grateful for. But then it hits us; it’s time for turkey sandwiches and another slice of pumpkin pie! While I’m being a bit facetious, it begs the question: Why am I grateful and to whom?

In todays politically correct society we tend to talk in broad generalities when referring to religious matters. For example, the term “prayer” is widely accepted as something you should do. However, to whom you pray is rather nebulous. Are we praying to the God of the Bible, Allah, one of the many Hindu deities, or perhaps the turkey God (Hey, why not. It’s Thanksgiving!)? The new religious majority says it doesn’t matter to whom you pray, as long as you pray.

The same can be said of giving thanks. Remember when you were younger and your parents told you whenever you received a gift to say “thank you”? I don’t know about you, but my behind turned several hues of red if I showed ingratitude for the gift given me. If I were to sarcastically look at the wall and say “thank you” and not face the one who gifted me, my rear would undergo the same phenomenal color change. The point is that both in prayer and thanksgiving there is an object. The world today says that it doesn’t matter who you show gratitude to, but rather that you just show gratitude. But just like smug little Jordan, who looked at the wall and said “thank you,” so is the rest of the world when they say they are thankful for what they have but do not acknowledge the God who has given them everything. My father just preached a sermon on this very subject. His sermon text was based on Romans 1:18-23 which says:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (NKJV)

I have always thought of the atheist when reflecting on this passage. He takes pleasure in his life and the things he has but he doesn’t give any thought to who it was that provided him with all of those wondrous gifts. If I were to ask to whom he was grateful, he might respond with answers like “family” or “friends.” But how could they be responsible for the larger blessings, the good things beyond their control? Down deep, he must think it all comes from himself and his own effort. So, I suppose you could say that he is grateful to himself. The atheist might as well come clean and say, “You know what? I am grateful to myself for all that I have. I have these things because I’m good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me!” While he may never admit it, this is what he believes. He “suppresses the truth” because he cannot bear the implications of a God to whom he must answer. G.K. Chesterton said, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.” Truly how miserable the atheist must be. He would rather be left destitute than to acknowledge the One who gave him all that he has. The apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (NIV)

So, as Christians, we don’t look defiantly at the wall and declare thanks to something or someone to whom gratitude is not due. This is what the Israelites did when they worshipped Baal. This is what the atheist does to himself. It seems that sinful human beings will express thanks to anyone but the One to whom it is truly owed, the sovereign creator and Lord of the universe. So, my friends, this Thanksgiving hold your turkey legs up high and pray, “Good food, good meat, thank God, let’s eat!” No! Don’t do that I was being facetious again! I guess some habits die-hard.

- Jordan McGehee