A Different Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving will look different this year.  Many families who usually travel to family gatherings will find themselves staying home. Many other families will be praying for family members hospitalized due to the pandemic. Black Friday won’t see the crowds that mark this busiest shopping day of the year. Even the Macy’s parade will be pre-recorded and otherwise limited to avoid crowds gathering.

But some things don’t change.

The most basic tenet of Biblical stewardship is that God created and owns everything.  And he has given us charge of resources to be used for his glory and for our benefit.

An Attitude of Gratitude

This leads to the heart attitude that underlies stewardship – a mindset of gratitude for all that God has provided.  To be sure, many of us have worked hard to get where we are. But, like the three servants in the parable of the talents, we started with resources that God gave us. In fact, even the ability to produce wealth comes from God. He told the Israelites on the way to the Promised Land: “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)

What does that look like in this season?  For one thing, many of us have taken for granted the jobs we have; truth be told, many of us grumble about those jobs from time to time. But in a pandemic season when so many have lost their jobs, those of us who still have employment have much to be grateful for.  And even those of us who have lost our employment or have had our hours cut back still have systems to rely on for provision – our savings, our families, assistance programs.  Around the world, millions of people depend on their daily labor for that day’s food; if they don’t work in a given day, they don’t eat that day.  So gratitude for our jobs and for our other sources of provision fits well with this season.

James underscores that all that we have comes from God: “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:16-17)  It is tempting to think that we deserve all that we have or that our wealth is entirely attributable to our own hard work. But James would agree with Moses that this thinking is deceived. In fact, God is the source of all we have – whether he has chosen to use a job or some other means as his channel of provision.

Once we understand this – really grapple with God as the ultimate Source of all good things – we are naturally moved to an attitude of thanksgiving. And this gives us the proper outlook for stewardship. Instead of worrying about all that we don’t have, we acknowledge God for blessing us with all we do have. We develop a mindset of abundance instead of one of scarcity.  We’re freed up to give more generously, and we balance our spending, saving, and debt in ways that honor God.

Praying with Thanksgiving

This attitude of thanksgiving also frees us from anxiety and worry.  Paul tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Did you catch that?  God’s peace comes when we pray with thanksgiving.

Have you ever prayed about something and then still felt anxious about it? Most of us, if we’re honest, would admit that we have. Peace comes not just from prayer but from prayer with thanksgiving. This is the kind of prayer that believes God is already answering and trusts that he not only knows what’s best for us, but is actually doing it even as we pray. We may not see the results for a while, but that doesn’t mean God is not moving.

So – from a stewardship perspective – when we pray with thanksgiving about that new job or that promotion or raise, we experience God’s peace. When we pray with thanksgiving about how we’re going to meet the next month’s bills, we experience God’s peace.  Paul ties thanksgiving and peace together again in the letter to the Colossians: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)

Thanksgiving and contentment go together. Praying with thanksgiving includes praying with contentment – contentment with what God has chosen to provide.  So when we pray with thanksgiving about a big purchase decision, the heart of contentment frees us from being enslaved to our desires. We may decide to make or not make the purchase, but the attitude of contentment will help keep us from making an impulse decision that leads to debt.

Thanksgiving as a Lifestyle

Thanksgiving – it’s not just for worship.  It’s a lifestyle.  Paul instructed the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)  If we’re searching for God’s will in key stewardship decisions, a context of thanksgiving puts us in a position to know and do his will.