True Thankfulness Requires Insight
The United States of America is a country that has been blessed like no other country upon the face of the earth. Known as “the breadbasket of the world,” the United States consistently helps and gives aid to countries in need. Whether it is responding to a tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, or famine, the United States nearly always offers assistance to the afflicted nations. This assistance is often even extended to those countries who consider the United States to be evil. The United States is also the world’s sole remaining superpower. Astute students of the Bible realize that the numerous material blessings that this country reaps are a direct result of the promises that God made to Abraham (for more regarding this, please see our article, The Origin of Our Western Heritage).
Even those with a totally secular viewpoint have begun to recognize that the United States is unique:
It has become commonplace to refer to the contemporary United States as a global “hegemon”; what is less generally recognized is that America is the first nation in history that can truly lay claim to such a title. In describing not only American power but the reach of that power, no qualifying words or phrases are necessary: Rome, for instance, is said to have commanded “the civilized world,” while at its height the British Empire predominated over “the known world”; but only America can project its physical might into any part of the world, known, civilized, or otherwise, and only America possesses a culture (crass as many may find it) that is either dominant or vying for dominance on every continent. In truth, all the empires of old, impressive as they may have been, only fantasized about and pretended to such universal reach and sway: the United States of the twenty-first century is, simply, an unprecedented phenomenon. (What Ifs of American History, Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been, p. 19, Edited by Robert Cowley, American Historical Publications, Inc., 2003)
One of the primary reasons that the early American settlers came to this land was the opportunity for religious freedom. Finding the religious tolerance of England at odds with their faith and conviction, these individuals endured much hardship in their journey across the ocean. They faced harsh winters when they arrived, as they settled and tamed this land. Though not all of the settlers were true followers of God, most were sincere in their approach and recognized that their very existence depended upon the Creator’s blessings, grace, and mercy. As the theory of evolution had not yet reared its ugly head, society as a whole acknowledged their Creator. This is in stark contrast to how our modern society views God. Modern-day culture provides great tolerance toward those who attack Christianity and poke fun at God. Virtually all of the Ten Commandments have been turned upside-down and reasoned-around, by clergy and laymen alike. There is no humility among the masses, just an overwhelming amount of pride.
Please note how the Bible describes some of the characteristics of those in our time (emphasis added):
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2 Tim. 3:1-5)
Here is a frank description of our modern and enlightened society. Take careful note that those who display this unthankful orientation are among those who manifest the characteristics that we should be striving to avoid. Truly, the concerned individual will want to do everything to avoid having an unthankful orientation. Whether at an individual or group level, no matter how large or small the group, we should always be cognizant of where our blessings come from. As such, it is entirely appropriate to give thanks to God for all that He has done. Likewise, it would not be inappropriate for a nation to set aside one day in the year as a special day of thanksgiving.
The nation of Israel, whether as a whole or while it was a divided kingdom, displayed a cycle of temporary obedience, then followed by rebellion, followed by temporary remorse. Although it is hard to believe, Israel was, at times, thankful.
And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he shall offer unto the LORD. If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried. (Lev. 7:11-12)
And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will. On the same day it shall be eaten up; ye shall leave none of it until the morrow: I am the LORD. (Lev. 22:29-30)
You will have all you want to eat, and you will give thanks to the LORD your God for the fertile land that he has given you. Make certain that you do not forget the LORD your God; do not fail to obey any of his laws that I am giving you today. (Deut. 8:10-11, Good News Bible)
Here we see instructions for a sacrifice that the Israelites could make as a thanksgiving offering to God. Since God provided these instructions, the assumption is that Israel would at times obey these instructions. This strongly implies that Israel would have been thankful, at least occasionally.
Later, during the reign of King David, we see an outstanding example of thankfulness.
Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works. Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually. (1 Chron. 16:8-11)
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. (1 Chron. 16:34)
Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy. Wherefore David blessed the LORD before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. (1 Chron. 29:9-14)
The time period of the Judges is a chronicle of the whimsical nature of mankind. When things went right, the Israelites soon forgot about their God. When things went wrong, they wondered where He went. It was as if the Israelites were saying, “Thank you very much, God. I’ll call you when I need you.” Their obedience was transitory, as was their thankfulness. During this time period, Israel forsook God’s laws, then humbly returned to His ways, no less than seven times. The entire Book of Judges chronicles this behavior.
During the time when Israel and Judah had gone their separate ways, the evidence of an unchanging human nature surfaced again. Though Judah strayed from God many times, when they repented and turned back to God, they would offer sacrifices of thanksgiving on the altar. During the reign of Hezekiah, we see a leader who faithfully served and obeyed God all of his life (2 Chron. 29). In stark contrast, during the reign of Manasseh, we see a leader who began his reign in open rebellion toward God, but who later had a change of heart and zealously began to do what was right in God’s sight (2 Chron. 33). In both situations, offerings of thanksgiving were given (2 Chron. 29:31; 33:16).
During Nehemiah’s reign, we see various individuals and groups who were chosen to take the lead when it came to being thankful.
And Mattaniah the son of Micha, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, was the principal to begin the thanksgiving in prayer… (Neh. 11:17)
Moreover the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, which was over the thanksgiving, he and his brethren. (Neh. 12:8)
And the chief of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brethren over against them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, ward over against ward. (Neh. 12:24)
And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps. (Neh. 12:27)
Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks, whereof one went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate. (Neh. 12:31)
And the other company of them that gave thanks went over against them, and I after them, and the half of the people upon the wall… So stood the two companies of them that gave thanks in the house of God, and I, and the half of the rulers with me. (Neh. 12:38-40)
For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God. (Neh. 12:46)
Finally, the Psalms provide numerous references with regard to the subject at hand. The following are but a few:
That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. (Psalm 26:7)
I will always thank the LORD; I will never stop praising him. (Psalm 34:1, Good News Bible)
I will always thank you, God, for what you have done; in the presence of your people I will proclaim that you are good. (Psalm 52:9, Good News Bible)
I will give you thanks as long as I live; I will raise my hands to you in prayer. (Psalm 63:4, Good News Bible)
So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations. (Psalm 79:13)
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. (Psalm 95:2)
Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 106:1)
So thank GOD for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves; Offer thanksgiving sacrifices, tell the world what he’s done – sing it out! (Psalm 107:21-22, The Message)
But we, the living, will give thanks to him now and forever. Praise the LORD! (Psalm 115:18, Good News Bible)
Psalm 136 is the epitome of having a genuine, thankful orientation. It begins and ends with an overarching theme of thankfulness.
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 136:1-3)
O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 136:26)
In between the above verses, the Psalmist provides example after example of God’s great power and mercy. Thus, we can conclude from all of the previous scriptures that being thankful and having a thankful orientation is certainly acceptable in God’s sight. This is true whether at an individual or group level.
Christ and the Early Church’s Example
Thankfulness and giving of thanks is also an important part of the New Testament dispensation. Indeed, being thankful demonstrates having a heart and mind which is not in opposition to God. It shows humility, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and a recognition that we are dependant upon God for all that He provides. As always, Christ set the perfect example. And if Christ had the time to give thanks, given the time constraints and pressures that He was under, surely we can carve out time in our busy schedule to show proper thanks, too.
He ordered the people to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, and gave thanks to God. He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. (Matt. 14:19, Good News Bible)
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks to God, broke them, and gave them to the disciples; and the disciples gave them to the people. (Matt. 15:36, Good News Bible)
While they were eating, Jesus took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. “Take and eat it,” he said; “this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God, and gave it to them. “Drink it, all of you,” he said; “this is my blood, which seals God’s covenant, my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matt. 26:26-28, Good News Bible)
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. (Matt. 11:25)
And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. (Mark 8:6-7)
The Apostle Paul also taught others to be thankful, whether by his own personal example or via instruction by letter.
And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. (Acts 27:35)
Since you are God’s dear children, you must try to be like him. Your life must be controlled by love, just as Christ loved us and gave his life for us as a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice that pleases God. Since you are God’s people, it is not right that any matters of sexual immorality or indecency or greed should even be mentioned among you. Nor is it fitting for you to use language which is obscene, profane, or vulgar. Rather you should give thanks to God. You may be sure that no one who is immoral, indecent, or greedy (for greed is a form of idolatry) will ever receive a share in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Do not let anyone deceive you with foolish words; it is because of these very things that God’s anger will come upon those who do not obey him. So have nothing at all to do with such people. (Eph. 5:1-7, Good News Bible)
So be careful how you live. Don’t live like ignorant people, but like wise people. Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days. Don’t be fools, then, but try to find out what the Lord wants you to do. Do not get drunk with wine, which will only ruin you; instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with the words of psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing hymns and psalms to the Lord with praise in your hearts. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, always give thanks for everything to God the Father. (Eph. 5:15-20, Good News Bible)
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Phil. 4:4-6)
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. (Col. 2:6-7)
Thus, it has been amply demonstrated that having a thankful orientation is a good quality that is seen throughout the scriptures. Whether by means of personal example or by instructing others, being thankful shows up both in the Old and New Testaments. It clearly is something that has not been “nailed to the cross.” We now turn our attention to those of us who have been called in this present day and age.
What We Can Be Thankful For
Those who have been called out of this present, evil world to live a life as a follower of Christ realize that it is not always an easy life. It is through much tribulation that we enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Although we will have trials and periods of testing, there are also many benefits (Psalm 68:19; 103:2, John 10:10). What are some of the things for which we can be thankful?
We can certainly be thankful for our human life. We realize that we did not come about because of some random chain of events that began billions of years ago. Our ancestors were not primordial ooze (Gen. 2:7, Psalm 100:3; 139:14). Mankind’s existence is purposeful. We have a mind that can think and evaluate what it is that we are thinking, and we owe our existence to the Master Potter (Isaiah 64:8). A man and a woman, by having children in a proper marital relationship, take a vital part in God’s plan and purpose for mankind.
We can also be thankful for coming to a knowledge of the Truth. This world is in a state of confusion. The religions in this world are confused. The various Christian denominations are in disagreement. Even the Church of God itself has fallen prey to bickering, schism, and division. Yet, Christ said that we would know the Truth, and the Truth would make us free (John 8:32). Christ lived the Truth, setting the proper example for us. It is through Him that we can come to the Father (John 14:6). And He has not left us without an instruction book. All of the essential issues of life that are truly important for us to know at this time are preserved and revealed in the Bible. It is the word of God (John 17:17) and it contains that Truth which is necessary for us to know to gain salvation. The view of Socrates – who once said that one can never know the truth about anything, since if one did not know the truth to begin with, how could one recognize it when he found it – is patently false and ignores divine revelation (please see our article, Knowledge of Truth – How Does It Come?). The Truth reveals godliness, not ungodliness (Titus 1:1). And yet, many will speak evil of the Truth and those who follow Christ’s teachings (2 Peter 2:2). Do not be surprised, shocked, or upset if you hold to the knowledge of the Truth and people criticize you. This, in reality, is a good thing. It is one of the defining characteristics of what it means to be a Christian. If they persecuted Christ, they will also persecute you (John 15:20).
Another thing for which we can be thankful, is having the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. It has not been given to the world as a whole at this time (John 14:16-17). It has to be given to us in order to understand the Truth by divine revelation (1 Cor. 2:9-10), and it will teach us all things (John 14:26). This does not mean that, once we have the Holy Spirit, we will suddenly understand everything about the universe, be a mathematical genius, or be able to sit down at a piano and instantly begin playing a piece by Rachmaninoff. This verse is referring to knowledge of God’s Way of life, not a physical knowledge of physical things. God’s Holy Spirit also provides us with a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). If you are unbalanced, you are not using the Holy Spirit. In that case, you need to stir up the spirit (2 Tim. 1:6). The Holy Spirit is a tool that we can access that will allow us to produce good fruits (Gal. 5:22-23, Eph. 5:9).
Having overall good health is yet another area for which we can be thankful. Of course, our physical characteristics do depend a lot on our physical makeup and who our parents were. Yet, there is a lot that we can do to prevent sickness and disease, thereby giving us a chance to thrive. Sadly, it is getting increasingly harder to get a proper balance of food in this modern era. It is not uncommon to find food that lacks vitamins, is full of fat, starches, and sugars, and has been depleted of most of its nutritional value. Reintroducing synthetic vitamins and minerals into the final processed product does not solve the problem. Simply put, we were designed to ingest certain foods, strive to avoid others, and take others in moderation (please see our article, Unclean Meats – Should They Be Eaten?). According to the Bible, mankind was not meant to be vegetarian. Drinking wine in moderation is perfectly acceptable. Having a sweet now and then should not be a matter of great consternation. After all, God called the Promised Land a land flowing with milk and honey. And while there is a substantial difference between honey in its raw, natural form and a candy bar, it is a huge leap in logic to believe that eating a candy bar will keep one out of God’s Kingdom. As with everything, the key is to be balanced in one’s approach. Do not go overboard in one direction or the other. God wants us to prosper and be in good health (3 John 1:2). He wants us to live an abundant life (John 10:10). An increasing amount of people are beginning to realize that the health laws that God gave to ancient Israel are just as applicable for us today. The book of Proverbs tells us:
Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! (Prov. 3:7-8, The Message)
My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. (Prov. 4:20-22)
Having peace of mind and a positive outlook are also very important. Note the following:
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. (Isaiah 58:6-8)
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:16)
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Rom. 8:6)
Being thankful for fellowship with one another is certainly another important area. It is through such contact that we can learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron (Prov. 27:17). The following are a few key scriptures on this subject (for a more detailed exposition, please see our article, True Christian Fellowship Today?).
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. (Col. 1:9)
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Cor. 6:14)
Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3)
Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently. (1 Peter 1:22)
Finally, we can be extremely thankful for the gift of salvation.
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:15-16)
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Rom. 6:4-6)
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim. 1:1)
For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (1 Tim. 4:8)
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 6:23)
Are we appreciative for what we have, or do we covet that which belongs to someone else? Do we take things for granted, or are we truly thankful for all that we have? A true Christian recognizes that God requires us to properly give thanks.
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (Heb. 13:15)
Thanksgiving Day and Church Tradition
We now come to an aspect of thankfulness which, for some, has caused needless consternation, confusion, bitterness, hatred, and division. What has been the tradition of the Church of God in these last days regarding the Thanksgiving Day holiday? Was the holiday always suspect, yet another subtle device of Satan to infiltrate his way of rebellion into the true Church of God? Was it always considered as pagan as Christmas, Easter, New Year’s Day, Halloween, and all the rest of the world’s holidays? Was it labeled as more surreptitious than Christmas? Does it take our focus off God’s plan of salvation, and alter or distort the meaning of God’s true festivals, replacing them with sugarcoated lies? Was it ranked among the most heathen of festivals, a stench in God’s nostrils, a pagan celebration that we should avoid at all costs? Or should it be elevated to Holy Day status and made into an additional requirement for all Christians to observe? When a group of people want to set aside a day to give thanks to God, is it wrong? How about a larger group of people? How about a state? How about an entire country? When does it suddenly become wrong?
Much has been written concerning Thanksgiving Day, both pro and con. With the advent of the Internet, this information has become easily available. While the Internet certainly provides quick answers for those seeking information, quick answers do not necessarily mean correct answers. Much of the misleading information on the subject at hand has been available in printed form for decades, and the Internet has merely provided a simple means to regurgitate this information to a much wider audience. There really is nothing new under the sun. While the overwhelming majority of groups recognize that the long-held tradition of the Church was to treat Thanksgiving Day as a special time to give thanks to God for all of the blessings that He has bestowed, a few fringe sects continue to believe otherwise.
Admittedly, the topic of Thanksgiving Day was never at the forefront of the Church’s publications or sermons. The gospel of the kingdom of God is what the Church always emphasized (for more information on the gospel, please see our article, The Gospel – What Is It?). How to show love toward God and love toward fellow man was always a common theme. In those booklets and articles that do discuss pagan holidays, nothing is ever mentioned about Thanksgiving Day being among those holidays. Yet some will say that silence on the subject automatically means condemnation or, at the very least, uncertainty, misgivings, and doubt. Obviously, the Thanksgiving holiday is not mentioned in the Bible. There are, however, other secular holidays that are explicitly mentioned. Purim (the origins of which are described in the book of Esther) and Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights or Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-23), are two such celebrations. God nowhere condemns those who observed these days. Furthermore, the Church has always recognized that these days could be observed, although they were never practiced by the Church (for more historical information on Thanksgiving Day and other holidays, please see our article, The Holidays We Keep – What Needs To Be Understood).
Since the Thanksgiving holiday is not directly mentioned in the Bible, for those who want to honestly examine this subject, what should also be of paramount importance is Church tradition. Has the Church in these Last Days had a position on this subject? If so, what has this position been? Has the tradition of the Church been for or against observing Thanksgiving? If it is a good tradition, then we are permitted to continue in it (2 Thess. 2:15). The contention by some that the leadership of the Church was anti-Thanksgiving is fatuous, given the leadership’s clear sermon statements, information contained in the Church’s magazines, information not contained in the booklet that discussed pagan holidays, and the longstanding tradition of the Church, all of which occurred well prior to the departure from Truth which occurred in these last days. Quite simply, no booklets, articles, or sermons ever condemned Thanksgiving Day. This topic, no doubt, was being questioned at the grassroots level and began to cause doubt and confusion in the Church. Why else would there be a need to write the official view of the Church in its publication that specifically reached out to all members? The tradition of the Church is that Thanksgiving Day is one of the few holidays of this world that does not have pagan origins and therefore may be celebrated by Church members. It was always considered a good holiday, not an evil one. Those who want to paint the opposite picture should consider what the Bible says.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21)
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1Thess. 5:21-22)
If a member chooses not to observe Thanksgiving for various personal reasons, that is permissible. After all, Jesus Christ, the Twelve Apostles, the Apostle Paul, and the Church in the first century never observed it. However, if a member chooses not to observe Thanksgiving for various personal reasons, and begins to sow discord among the brethren because of this view, that is not permissible. The mature approach that one should take is simple – if it is a matter of individual faith, do your best to privately live up to it (Rom. 14:22-23), but do not cause discord among the brethren because of it. One should not violate his own conscience with regard to this subject, nor should one judge someone else about this. However, if questioned, the Church member should not attempt to appeal to Biblical authority or Church tradition to support his point of view. This approach could easily lead to argumentation and divisiveness. Rather, a simple statement such as “personal preference” should be sufficient. It is by no means a requirement for salvation, and whether or not one observes the day should not be made a requirement for salvation.
While it is true that we should be thankful everyday, not just once a year (Psalm 145:1-2), there is no Biblical prohibition against a group of people and, by logical extension, a community, municipality, state, or country, setting aside a day for all to be especially thankful to God for all that He has done. And while it should be up to each individual to decide whether or not he or she will keep Thanksgiving Day, if the issue becomes one of division in the Church, it is up to the ministry to maintain peace and harmony among the members. If an individual insists that his way is right, and attempts to get others to see things his way, then this individual is guilty of sowing discord among the brethren, one of the seven things that God hates (Prov. 6:16-19).
Some may argue that Thanksgiving Day has merely become a day of gluttony and entertainment, and therefore, should be avoided. Yet, this is a specious argument. The same argument can be made for the way some observe the Feast of Tabernacles. If you are one who makes Thanksgiving a day of gluttony and entertainment, focusing only on food and football, referring to it as Turkey Day, then you are not celebrating the holiday in its true intent. Furthermore, if the only reason you look forward to Thanksgiving is so that you can take advantage of the day after Thanksgiving sales at the mall, thus initiating the Christmas shopping season, then you truly need to step back and reconsider why you even celebrate the holiday. While it is not wrong to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving or any time during the Christmas season, we should not associate the Thanksgiving holiday with bargain hunting at the mall. It becomes a matter of proper orientation. Although it is impossible to put Christ back into Christmas, it is certainly appropriate to put thankfulness back into Thanksgiving.
It has been amply demonstrated that, whether with regard to ancient Israel or the Church of the first century, being thankful and giving thanks is an important part of the Biblical record. God is pleased when His creation is thankful for all that He has done. The follower of Christ has many things for which to be thankful. And while it is essential for the Christian to come out of this world and be separate from its ways and traditions, the Church of God has always openly acknowledged the fact that Thanksgiving Day does not have pagan origins.
Although most of mankind remains in opposition to God and His Way, there is a time coming soon when all nations will turn toward God. Included in this change of hearts and minds is giving thanks to God for all that He has done.
A day is coming when people will sing, “Give thanks to the LORD! Call for him to help you! Tell all the nations what he has done! Tell them how great he is!” (Isaiah 12:4, Good News Bible)
For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. (Isaiah 51:3)
The LORD said, “People are saying that this place is like a desert, that it has no people or animals living in it. And they are right; the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem are empty; no people or animals live there. But in these places you will hear again the shouts of gladness and joy and the happy sounds of wedding feasts. You will hear people sing as they bring thank offerings to my Temple; they will say, ‘Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, because he is good and his love is eternal.’ I will make this land as prosperous as it was before. I, the LORD, have spoken.” (Jer. 33:10-11, Good News Bible)
Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. (Rev. 7:12)
Let us look forward to the time when all mankind will recognize God and be thankful for all that He does. May God speed that day! Prior to this time period, a true follower of Christ will be earnestly trying to set the proper example. While the majority of individuals take everything for granted, it should not be so among true Christians. Therefore, let us give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, because His mercy endures for ever!