This blog is about Thanksgiving. No, not about the history of the American holiday which is complicated and fraught. It is just about the importance and value of stopping and giving thanks and some of the obstacles in our way. For example, we live in a culture where the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, a day of frantic shopping and acquiring (less stressful now perhaps than in the past with online shopping surging). The dichotomy of the goal of these two days right next to each other on the calendar is striking if we stop to consider it. One day we reflect on what we are thankful for. The very next day we try and acquire what we think will make us and other people happy. Our consumer culture leaves very little room to allow us to truly be thankful for what we have. As if to say, ‘Yes, be thankful, but don’t be content with what you have! Acquire! Get more! You don’t have enough!’
“What is your enough?” is one idea discussed in the Financial Literacy curriculum put out by BFJN. The idea of answering this question and finding your ‘enough,’ overlaps with the idea of gratefulness. Just today I was reading an article in the Boston Globe about a man in New Hampshire who recently died. He wore threadbare clothes and rode a lawn mower around town. He lived in a mobile home and worked odd jobs for people. Yet when he died, he gave $3.8 million dollars to his town. I think most of us, me included, would have lived differently than this man with that kind of money. But for him, he found his ‘enough.’ He had the money to do so much more with his time and resources, but he was obviously grateful for what he had and did not feel like he needed more. Contrast his ‘enough’ with the famous response of John D Rockefeller, who was the richest man in the world in the early 1900’s. When asked, “How much money is enough money?” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more.” Being the richest person in the world was not enough for him. He always wanted more.
If we aren’t careful, we too can fall into the pattern of thinking our happiness or ‘enough’ is just over the horizon, always elusive to us. We would have it, if only we had that house, car, job, relationship, new toy, etc. And those things aren’t bad in themselves, generally. But it is a lie that acquiring more can satisfy the human heart. We would be far better served to practice thanksgiving and gratefulness. Let’s look to the Apostle Paul to guide us in this direction.
Philippians 4:12 – I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
What is the source of this strange contentment Paul had but which so often eludes us today? Earlier in the letter, Paul mentions repeatedly how he rejoices in the Lord, exhorts others to rejoice in the Lord always, and how he considers all things a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Paul, unlike many of us today, truly grasped the worth of Jesus and the importance of reflecting on what he had received in Jesus. Yet, through faith, we too can encounter and get to know the perfect person in Jesus. We can receive the Holy Spirit of God inside of us. We can become the temple of God and the point where heaven meets earth! We can be adopted into the family God and have a guaranteed inheritance of eternal life with God! In other words, if we have faith in Jesus, there is never a time when we don’t have so much to be thankful for!
We do ourselves a disservice by not thinking about what we have enough. This is true for God and for the other things we have in our lives. These other things could be our family, friends, job, etc. When we focus on what we don’t have, we are left anxious and striving. When we focus on what we do have, we can find peace and contentment which cannot be found with that screaming black Friday deal.
So, I encourage you to pause on Thanksgiving and after Thanksgiving to really give thanks. Maybe snag a deal or two the next day but don’t hang your happiness on those things. Instead, find your contentment in God and celebrate the good gifts God gives us and the many different forms in which they come, with the best gift being God himself.