Have We Lost the Meaning of Thanksgiving?

Why does it seem that Thanksgiving Day is no longer important in America today, and why is the attitude of thanksgiving no longer important to many all around the world?

Have We Lost the Meaning of Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving Day is almost here. Yet it seems I can count on just one hand the references made to this national holiday in the weeks leading up to it. It seems to be an afterthought between the more commercialized Halloween and Christmas holidays. Why?

Why doesn’t anyone talk about Thanksgiving Day anymore?

God is not important to most Americans

Thanksgiving was instituted by Abraham Lincoln 153 years ago for the nation to show gratitude to God for His blessings. Has this meaning become lost? Has the United States taken its blessings for granted? God warned ancient Israel of this dangerous trap—that instead of thanking Him for their blessings, they would come to believe the blessings they enjoyed came from their own efforts (Deuteronomy 8:10-17).

It is this flawed thinking that leads some to refer to this day as “Turkey Day,” which switches our attention from a day of giving thanks to God to a day of gorging ourselves with food! It is this thinking that leads us to spend our time watching football and poring over the Thursday newspaper’s Black Friday ads instead of giving thanks to God.

Yes, Thanksgiving’s meaning is lost to many because our priorities are not right. Instead of focusing on God, we focus on ourselves. Relegating God to a minor role in our lives—refusing to acknowledge His blessings—has contributed to so many of our problems.

The Bible is very direct about the tragic results in the lives of those who refuse to thank God: “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21, emphasis added).

The results of ingratitude

When we are genuinely thankful, it humbles us and helps us recognize that we truly are undeserving of all the good things we have. But when such humility is replaced by pride, it produces the dangerous attitude of ingratitude.

God may not be important to many people today, but that doesn’t change the fact that everyone is important to God. An attitude of unthankfulness (which fails to retain God in our thinking) leads to flawed thinking and actions. “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves … And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (verses 24, 28).

Just consider the headlines that fill the news. Stop and think about the horrible atrocities committed almost every day, the constant stream of broken homes and relationships, the sexual immorality prevalent in our culture, the increasing violence both in our streets and entertainment.

As we contemplate such things, we should be concerned! This is exactly what God said would happen when we forget about Him (verses 29-31).

Make the attitude of thanksgiving a part of your life

Even though God may not be important to many people today, that doesn’t change the fact that everyone is important to God. God has an incredible purpose for us to become children in His family (2 Peter 3:9; Hebrews 2:6-8)! That purpose should humble us.

Taking time to seriously consider that God really is concerned about each of us individually can be a first step toward living a life filled with thanksgiving. The more we consider how much we have to be thankful for, the more important God will be in our lives.

The apostle Paul encourages us, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God wants us to look for things to be thankful for. And when we start looking for obvious things to be thankful for, we end up finding a gold mine of not so obvious things to also be thankful for! It is by doing this that we can develop an attitude of gratitude in our lives.

So, even if the concept of truly being thankful on Thanksgiving is dead to some, make sure it isn’t dead to you. Take time to appreciate the good things in your life and thank God for the big things and the simple things that are easily taken for granted. When we do this, we will come to a deeper comprehension of how blessed we really are.

Isn’t that something to be thankful for? 

For more insight into the importance of thankfulness, read “Unthankfulness: A Sign of Perilous Times” from the November/December 2015 issue of Discern magazine.

About the Author

Tim Groves

Tim Groves

Tim Groves attends the Jefferson, Georgia, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, where he serves as a deacon. 

He has been married to his wife, Teresa, for over 30 years. Together, they have two daughters and two sons and live in South Carolina. They moved there from Ohio in 1997 to flee the cold northern winters and allow him to do the things he really enjoys, like roaming though automobile junkyards looking for hidden treasures from times long past.

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