Speaking of... Life, Hope & Truth

Thanksgiving Leftovers

What are you going to do with your Thanksgiving leftovers?

Increasing numbers of Americans get up from the annual Thanksgiving feast and head out to the malls and stores to begin the mad spending spree that has been nicknamed “Black Friday.” Even before Thanksgiving Day has ended, we put it out of our minds and charge off to the next activity. The only things that seem to remain are the leftover remnants of the Thanksgiving meal.

What kind of leftovers do you have in your home? We naturally think of turkey and dressing and potatoes and all the various foods our families enjoy at this special celebration, but that’s not really what I’m asking. 

It seems as though our increasingly secular society has done everything possible to redefine this celebration and its meaning. Many flippantly refer to the day as “Turkey Day,” as if the main focus should be on feasting. Far more emphasis is placed upon the meal than on the giving of thanks.

One of the more popular trends is to focus on expressing thanks to those people who play a special part in your life. Some suggest that when we sit down for the meal, we should go around the table and let each person say why they are thankful for the others who are there. It’s certainly nice to let people know they are special to us, and thanking people should be a part of our daily lives. But is that really what this day is supposed to be about—thanking other people?

From America’s earliest days, through the presidential proclamations of the Civil War and beyond, the celebration of Thanksgiving Day has always focused on giving thanks to God for His blessings, not simply on thanking the people who make our lives better. What’s the difference? Well, when I’m primarily focused on those who contribute to my life, I’m focused inward, with a more self-absorbed outlook on life. When my primary focus is on thanking God for His blessings, my outlook is very different.

You see, people don’t usually give sincere thanks for something they feel they deserve. When we become convinced of our own worthiness, and when others tell us how special we are to them, it’s easy to think we deserve the blessings God pours out upon us and our nation. But when we think about thanking God, we must begin with the humbling realization that we are the unworthy recipients of blessings we could never deserve.

When we fail to consider that, we lose sight of the God who gives us the many blessings we enjoy, even crediting people as the source of blessings that actually come from God. In the first chapter of the book of Romans, the apostle Paul described what society becomes when people decide it is not important to keep the knowledge of God and His ways at the forefront of their lives—and his description sounds much like our present world. Even more sobering, he says that on an individual basis, the end result is having a mind that really is incapable of making good judgments. 

The humbling experience of recognizing and acknowledging our own unworthiness to receive the many blessings God has mercifully showered on us should be an experience that changes our approach to life. The experience of genuinely giving sincere thanks to God is not just about a special meal or a special day. The effects of giving thanks to God should linger on, long after the celebration has ended and the leftover food is gone.

So, what’s left over from your giving of thanks? More importantly, what are you going to do with those “leftovers”?

For Life, Hope, & Truth, I’m David Johnson.