Comparatively Thankful


Thanksgiving Day means so many different things for all of us. It’s footballing, hunting, eating, gathering, relaxing, decorating, cooking, cleaning, traveling, shopping, and dozens more. But at some point during this day, all thoughtful people pause and say something like, “I am so thankful for_______.” Some will bring in the spiritual dimension and say, “God has blessed us so much.” And to emphasize just how blessed we are, there will often be someone who will add, “You know, there’s a lot of people who don’t have ___________.”

Today I’m wondering if that’s where our thankfulness often lies, in comparing ourselves with the less-fortunate. Whether they are “the poor,” the “less well-off,” or “people in other countries,” there always seems to be someone that doesn’t have what we’re presently enjoying. And for a lot of us, that makes us thankful.

This isn’t necessarily bad. We should be aware of those around us, and we should realize how good we have it. But I don’t think it goes far enough, and if it’s all we have, then we’re in a bad place.

Think, for a moment, what this entails. There is a “ladder,” so to speak, and there are people beneath us and above us. As long as we’re looking upon people down on lower rungs, we can be thankful. However, when we look up – as we do every time the life of some celebrity is highlighted, or when a well-produced advertisement convinces us that our lives are not complete without the product that is being sold – our thankfulness necessarily disappears. Honestly, I’m not nearly as thankful for my 200,000 mile Malibu when I drive past the BMW dealership as I am when I drive past the hitchhiker. (Don’t start.)

And what about the poor guy on the last rung? By this way of thinking, he’s got nothing for which to be thankful. There’s no one he can look to for those feelings of comparative thankfulness.

Thank God – yes – there’s something better.

In Psalm 136, the Bible tells us to give thanks to God. But it is not thanksgiving that is based upon how much better God has treated us than other people. It’s not even thanksgiving that is based upon the things that God has given us. It is simply this: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.

He is good.

That’s it.

Oh, and his mercy endures for ever. (However you translate the Hebrew chesed – mercy, steadfast love, lovingkindness – it is God’s love for his people that binds him to us by a covenant sealed by blood.)

Today I am thankful to God because he is good.

He is good, and I am not. And even if I were good – good enough on my own account to merit his attention and blessing – he is God, and I am not.

True, his goodness shines through that which he has given me, but even without those things, God is good. I can know he is good because he has committed his love to me in his Son, Jesus Christ, as a gift of grace, to make me good like him and to enjoy his goodness forever.

Today we give thanks. There are many reasons for doing so. We can give thanks when we look at other people. We can give thanks when we look at the people and things that fill our lives. And we can give thanks when we look at God. No comparisons need to be made, no accounting of earthly values. Just a simple look to God. This is no theological treatise up for debate, but on this day, let one thing be clear.

He is good.

And for that let us be thankful.

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