Deuteronomy 8:7-18/ 2 Corinthians 9:6-15/ Luke 17:11-19
Thanksgiving as a Lifestyle
I grew up with my mother commenting on how spoiled we were as children, compared to how her generation grew up. Then I grew up and think children these days are spoiled. I realized that the more we possess, the more we become spoiled and entitled. I think that is just a universal truth. I remember having to literally “dial” a telephone, physically go the TV to change the channel or volume, or wait for half an hour for a friend at a coffee shop because we didn’t have cell phones. Newer generations have more than we had, and with more possessions, the sense of entitlement increases. When we have more and more of anything, we tend to forget the times when we didn’t have those things, and are no longer impressed or feel grateful, because having those things is considered the norm now. They don’t feel like special gifts anymore.
Spoiled Ancient Israelites?
Ancient Israelites who were saved from slavery in Egypt and led to a land flowing with honey and milk were no exceptions. In Deuteronomy chapter 8, we witnessed the people of Israel hear this warning: “Do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
This warning is written because that is what happened to the people after their life became good in the new land. By the way, you should understand that these books were written long after these events happened. It is not because ancient Israelites were worse than us, for we are all the same. Universal truth, remember? We all become arrogant and entitled when we have more and life is better.
Ten Healed, One Gave Thanks
Instead of being arrogant and entitled, what we should be is, of course, grateful for all we have. Being grateful is a part of Jesus’ teaching. We read a story in which Jesus teaches us to give thanks.
Ten lepers were healed by God’s power and grace through Jesus, yet only one came back to thank him and praise God. This man happened to be a Gentile, a Samaritan, adding a layer to the teaching. The Jews, who believe that they are God’s chosen people, do not automatically get God’s approval: only those who live a life worthy of God do, whether they belong to the people of Israel or not. The nine lepers who came to Jesus, wretched and desperate, seemingly forgot the moment they were cured how desperate and miserable they had been. Well, that was fast!
But doesn’t it happen to all of us? I remember earnestly praying to God about something when I was desperate, leaping of joy and gratitude when the problem was solved, and then forgetting the feeling afterwards.
How to Give Thanks
Jesus taught us to be grateful. Paul taught us how. He teaches in 2 Corinthians chapter 9 that we should give and serve as we have received. He encourages believers to share their blessing. Our giving and service can bless others, and cause them to give thanks to God as a result.
The Christian teaching to give, share, and serve is a method of giving thanks. We give and bless others because God blessed us first. Sharing our blessing is the best way to give thanks. Because we are constantly receiving and giving blessing in our lives, this thanksgiving through giving and serving becomes a lifestyle. Just like the compassionate love and justice of God’s reign is a lifestyle, so is thanksgiving. We love and give because we are grateful to God. We fight alongside the marginalized because we are grateful for our privileges. And as Paul mentioned, we should give cheerfully, not reluctantly.
Let us give thanks to God for everything we have and not take anything for granted. Let us give thanks by giving and serving so that our blessing and joy can be shared and multiplied. Instead of complaining to God, “Why can’t I have what I want?” let us humbly ask, “Why do I deserve all this blessing?” Let us give thanks for our harvest, our natural resources, health, people in our lives, our material possessions, and even difficulties we go through, for they teach us lessons and strengthen us. Let us give thanks by giving and serving. And let us make this a lifestyle, instead of a one-day-a-year celebration. Let us give with willing and joyful hearts so that God can multiply our joy, together as a community.