Thoughts about thanksgiving (2)

I’m blogging through the question “Why is thanksgiving so important?”

Firstly, thanksgiving is important because failure to thank God is a mark of sinful rebellion. In Romans 1, Paul is describing the condition of those outside of Christ, and he says:

RO 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Paul is saying that although people deep down have a sense of God, they give God no glory and they give him no thanks. Non believers hearts are thankless, and the hearts of God’s people should be so different! That said, There is such a thing as thanksgiving that is sinful. Maybe that is a surprising thought. Look at Luke 18:9-14

LK 18:9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

LK 18:13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

LK 18:14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Now, what is going on in this account? It’s not quite as simple as saying that the Pharisee thinks his righteousness is all down to him. Indeed, we find him thanking God for what he does and doesn’t do. To understand this parable, you need to ask yourself which of the two men praying is a sinner? The answer of course is that they both are, but only one of them knows that he is.

The problem is that the Pharisee doesn’t understand grace. God’s blessings have become to him evidence of moral superiority. Tragically, he is no longer surprised that God should be gracious to him and his thanksgiving has become little more than a smokescreen for pride.

I cannot help but think that my thankfulness – or lack of it is a way in which I can measure the softness – or hardness of my heart. Am I still surprised by God’s grace to me?

Give me a sight, O Saviour,
Of Thy wondrous love to me,
Of the love that bro’t Thee down to earth,
To die on Calvary.

Oh, make me understand it,
Help me to take it in,
What it meant to Thee, the Holy One,
To bear away my sin.

Katharine A. M. Kelly, 1869-1942

These thoughts are developed from a sermon preached on our Harvest Sunday this year. You can hear the sermon Down load sermon.


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