Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and I have yet again become so consumed with the preparation -cramming a 5 day work week into merely 3, readying the house for holiday guests, etc- that I have forgotten to be truly, really, and actually THANKFUL. But what exactly does that mean? Is it merely writing out a list of pros and cons, and hoping that, at the end I can rejoice in one list being longer than the other? Or, perhaps I should spend a few extra hours in nature, wrapped up in winter-appropriate attire, counting leaves and petting woodland creatures. After all, I am thankful for the wonders of the world God has created.
But being thankful isn't about feeling good about ourselves or our world. It's not about a warm holiday feel-good time. Let's leave that to the morning talk shows and television broadcast parades. On the contrary, the Bible is chock full of passages where we are commanded to, in our thankfulness, praise God by giving! Just as he gave himself sacrificially on our behalf, so should we give of ourselves.
In the book of Deuteronomy, chapters 14:22- 15:11, God lays out specific commands regarding care for the poor. In this particular instance, money is involved- but there is much more to it than just writing out a check. The tithes in this passage are to be used to care for the poor. When God's people care for the poor, it brings him glory. Outsiders can see that the poor are being cared for- in this passage, those who cannot earn for themselves. And these gifts are given in thanks.The landowner looks at the abundance that God has given him that year- grain, vegetables, animals, wine, oil- and gives to the Lord in thankfulness and praise. God is good! He has given this abundance. And in giving to the Lord, this man or woman has a chance to be imitators of God by sharing the abundance with others.
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
So taking this into 2009, this is what I propose. If we are to give sacrificially (See Matthew 5:1-2; Luke 14:12-14; Proverbs 28:27), we must see this in not only a financial context, but also in that of whatever you hold dear. Maybe this means bringing a lonely stranger into your family. Or maybe it means giving of your precious time to help a widow clean her home or rake her leaves. You might tutor children who don't have a mother or father to spend time with them. You could even make a lifelong friend of a somewhat scary person you see sitting on the street. Really. God actually commands it.
There are lots of terrifying opportunities out there this holiday season. I encourage you to take one. Be thankful. Put yourself out there. After all, didn't our Father do just that when he hung on the cross, giving His all to those he loved? God is good. For this I am very, very thankful.