So we have come to Thanksgiving 2017, year of our Lord.
On the one hand, we have an enormous amount to be grateful for. Things are still relatively stable. We were able to buy the turkey at CostCo with little difficulty. On the way home, the traffic lights were all still working. The roads were in decent condition. We are able to provide for our families. Today hundreds of thousands of turkeys will be placed on tables, surrounded by millions of smiles.
But on the other hands, when we consider our culture’s understanding of itself, the contradictory confusions are rampant. When we look at our society’s attitude toward sex, sexual fruitfulness, sexual entitlement, sexual abuse, sexual androgyny, and sexual morality, what we have is a cross between a David Bowie concert gone wrong and a Hieronymus Bosch painting having nightmares. We have an established organization that is selling the parts of its human victims, and not only will Congress not stop it, they won’t even stop subsidizing the ghouls.
In the face of this great incongruity, and many others like it, many Christians wonder about the propriety of celebrating Thanksgiving. How can we do something like that when things are so terrible? How can we reconcile such rampant unbelief with pumpkin pie?
But thanksgiving is not some incongruous juxtaposition to the thrashing of a cultural unbelief drowning in its lusts. Prideful unbelief is the disease. Rampant lusts are the pus coming from the blisters. Gratitude and thanksgiving (only through the blood of Jesus Christ) are the only possible salve. Celebrate Thanksgiving today with your people, knowing that this is precisely what an unbelieving generation needs to see, hear, and smell.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (Ps. 23:5).
“Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:21).
“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14–15).
Put them all together. God sets a table for us in the presence of our enemies. They can see our joy; they can hear the clink of the glasses as we toast the advancement of the kingdom. The gladness we exhibit around the table is not some weird form of denial, but rather is our sustenance, our joy, our authority, and our strength. The unbelievers are doing their level best to suppress the two fundamental truths that confront them every day, and those truths are the need to recognize the absolute sovereignty of God, and the corresponding duty to render a life of thanksgiving to Him. And we set this contrast before them, like blazing stars against a Bible-black sky, when we do all things without murmuring—when, in short, we live our lives filled to the brim with thanksgiving.
One more thing. When we abandon our responsibilities for deep gratitude, this does not leave a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum, and when gratitude is gone, the Scriptures teach us that the emptied space fills up with demented lusts.
Allow me to appear to change the subject for a moment.
“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28).
Here Paul names a particular sin, stealing, and then tells us what the thief ought to be doing instead. The antidote for his thieving is honest manual labor, of the kind that will result in a surplus that he might be able to share with those less fortunate. The word translated rather here is key. That word is mallon.
He uses the same construction, and the same word mallon just a few verses down:
“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:3–5).
Instead of sexual corruption, what does Paul say to substitute? Not fornication and lust, he says, but mallon the giving of thanks. What an honest job is to a thief, so also is thanksgiving to a diseased imagination.
But because America, in her sleek and defiant self-sufficiency, is running pell mell away from the disciplines of gratitude, it is our responsibility to celebrate in such a way as to make it impossible for them to escape the plain facts. They did not evolve from the primordial goo, they are descended from Adam and Eve, and God delivered their great grandfather from the Flood in an ark. He sent His Christ to die and rise, and so remake pagan civilization, which gloriously happened. But our fathers turned away, despite having been given staggering amounts of wealth—for which we refused to give thanks.
“Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:12–17).
This is an important part of our message to unbelieving pagans. They must be told that they are to stop being ingrates. Christ is declared to them in all things, and this includes the pumpkin pie.
“Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).
This is the God we preach to them. This is the Christ who restores them to fellowship with their estranged Father. This is the Spirit who touches our lives, and makes our laden tables mean something worthwhile again.