In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
In the “Jaywalking” segment of the “Tonight Show,” Jay Leno posed some Thanksgiving Day trivia questions to passersby, and the results were humorous and sad at the same time. Here is a sample of questions asked and the responses:
- What year was the first Thanks giving? 1966, 1492
- Pilgrims are often shown wearing what on their shoes and their hats? Moccasins
- What is a male turkey called? Fred, Richard
- 280 Million Americans will cook turkey on Thanksgiving. How many Americans are there in our country? 8 Million
- Where did the first Pilgrims land? Hawaii, the East Coast
- What President declared Thanksgiving a national holiday? Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt, Benjamin Franklin
- How many days did the first Thanksgiving last? Three: one day for breakfast, one day for lunch, and one day for dinner
- What is the name of the ship the Pilgrims came over on? the Nina
- Where did the Pilgrims come from? Spain
This may be good for a belly laugh, but it is really tragic that Americans today are so ignorant of our nation’s history and traditions. In today’s culture, Thanksgiving Day is just a good excuse to have a day (or two) off of work, indulge in gluttonous behavior, and worship before the luminous god of football followed by the giving of alms to the god of materialism the next day all the while in complete ignorance of the significance of the day.
It does not have to be that way. The psalmist said, “Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name” (Psalm 18:49). The “heathen,” in this case, were the gôyim, Hebrew for the “nations” or the “Gentiles,” and by implication, the “godless.” Our attitude of thanksgiving should be a testimony to those that are without God not just on Thanksgiving Day, but everyday of our lives. In these “last days” we should live in contrast to those who are “lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy (2 Timothy 3:2).
C. S. Lewis once said, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is ‘good,’ because it is good, if ‘bad’ because it works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” Paul expressed this same idea when he said, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11-12). We assimilate this attitude when “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). “Them who are the called according to His purpose” do not live their lives like the “heathen” who are ungrateful or “unthankful” in their life conduct.
Perhaps the reason the “heathen” are unthankful is because they do not know to whom they should be thankful. That, of course, presupposes that in every other respect they are caring of others beyond themselves. If expressed at all, we often hear such empty platitudes as: I’m thankful for my job; I’m thankful for my family; I’m thankful for good friends, etc. That is fine, but thankful to whom?
When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, they arrived in the face of a harsh New England winter. They were without food and without shelter. Of the 121 souls that departed England to escape religious persecution and “for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country,” only 47 of the original colonists survived that brutal winter. With the help of neighboring Indian tribes, the colonists learned to cultivate and enjoy the bounty of the land. At the harvest that followed, they celebrated a season of thanksgiving to God for His providence and protection. The third year after having landed, William Bradford officially proclaimed November 29, 1623 a day of thanksgiving.
In as much as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest … and in as much as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three … there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.
Our nation, from its beginning, has always set aside a special day to give thanks to God, but not always on a consistent basis. George Washington declared a national day of thanksgiving on November 26, 1789 with these words:
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor … Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is or that will be … that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions …
Would that our current national leaders adopt that attitude!
Finally, Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed an annual national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. He said:
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy … I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens … [it is] announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord … It has seemed fit to me and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.
This Thanksgiving Day, amid all the festivities and family gatherings, try to devote at least some time to “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4). “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”