“In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:17
So, does that verse from the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica still count in 2020? Or do we get a pass from being thankful when times aren’t so good. How about what Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:20: “…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”?
As we head into Thanksgiving week, 2020, those are more than just rhetorical questions. In a world that continues to remind us how bad things are in this year of pandemic, hurricanes, crazy elections, and on and on, are we still expected to give thanks always, in everything, and even for everything?
I wonder if, back when the calendar turned from 2019 to the new year, if you had known what 2020 held, would you have given thanks even then, trusting that the Lord had a plan through it all? Or do circumstances dictate that it is okay to live ungratefully, and join the constant chorus of complaining that is so normal in this “new normal” that we are living in?
Now, we know that the American holiday of Thanksgiving has its roots in Scripture. In the Old Testament, God’s people had special feasts where they celebrated God’s agricultural bounty. In the New Testament Christ fulfilled those ceremonial feasts so that there were no more official days of thanksgiving. And that’s where verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and Ephesians 5:20 come into play. We don’t just offer our thanks at a certain season, or even on a certain day–or even just when everything is going our way. But we give thanks “always,” and we do so “for everything.” Which means, for the follower of Christ the “season” of Thanksgiving lasts from January 1 to December 31 each year. And yes, even in 2020.
But here’s the reality. We live in a world that is characterized by discontent, always wanting more and rarely grateful for what we have. Even when everything moves along smoothly, you certainly hear a lot more complaining in our world than expressions of gratitude. But that’s nothing new either, as evidenced by the reminder from last Sunday’s sermon about how the people of Israel “grumbled,” and were destroyed by the destroying angel (1 Cor. 10:10). To be truly thankful and to live like it always has been a choice to go against the flow.
That’s why, in some ways, Thanksgiving is the quintessential Christian holiday. It is a statement of contentment in God’s providential provision, it is a recognition that there our blessings originate outside of ourselves, in a God who is good to us, and it is making the intentional effort to express our gratitude to that God for His faithful provision. Even when, on the surface, things don’t seem to be going our way. Because we know that God loves us and that He is ultimately good to us.
So, let us give thanks always, for everything, anyway. Especially in 2020.
Here’s wishing you a blessed Thanks-giving, this week, and all the year round. I am grateful for each of you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.