Ampersand

Don’t Worry, Be Thankful, Blessed

By WESLEY SMITH | Nov 27, 2019

At its earliest, Thanksgiving stemmed from the festival to observe the end of the harvest. American history also indicates Thanksgiving as a day of distinction by recalling how Native Americans saved the colonial settlers in Plymouth Colony during a winter of starvation.

During the American War Between the States, Abraham Lincoln decreed the day to be a national holiday of thanksgiving. In his presidential proclamation he noted, “It has seemed to me fit and proper that the gifts of God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.”

Yet today, Thanksgiving is an opportunity for Americans to pause and remember how blessed we are, and to be thankful to God who gives gift after gift. Believers never want to put themselves in a position of only looking to God when we want or think we need something. Our relationship with God is covenantal – and in this respect it is mutual. As God gives to us, we then show thanksgiving.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages us to remember God’s grace, while we also give thanks for God’s mercy to us. Believers do well to guard against taking for granted God’s good providence. Jesus speaks to the human propensity to anxiety. Anxiety is nothing other than the constant worry that plagues human creatures.

Jesus tells those gathered to hear him, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” Naturally, we seem skeptical of such simplicity. It seems we always find time for worrying. It is a beast we’ve been battling in our own strength for years! This is normally counterproductive: The more you’ve tried not to worry, the more anxious you’ve become. So now you’re worrying about worrying!

To those of us who perpetually worry, Jesus had a few questions of his own. He asks the crowd, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Jesus then gives concrete examples as answers to his own rhetorical questions. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” (Matthew 6).

The answer Jesus gives in a nutshell is this: God provides. Thus, for us, the issue seems to be an issue of trust. Jesus concludes, “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you?”

If we could simply remember God’s constant care for us, rather than merely sit around and count our blessings, then Thanksgiving would always be a time of great celebration. The best thanksgiving advice ever given by Jesus was this: “Strive first for the kingdom to God, and a right and healthy relationship with God, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

A blessed Thanksgiving to all.

Wesley Smith of Harvey Cedars is a retired pastor in the American Baptist Church, USA.

 

 

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