I t was Herbert Spenser who said, “Thanksgiving and thought-giving go hand in hand.” It’s true; any time we stop and think we can’t help but be thankful. Today is Thanksgiving Day and our nation pauses once again to give thanks to God for his goodness and love, for all of the blessings of the year passed. It begs the question: How thankful are we?
In the Gospel of Luke are to be found four levels of thanksgiving. As we prepare for Thanksgiving, let’s take a look at them. We just might catch a glimpse of ourselves.
As Jesus entered a certain village he was met by 10 lepers, who stood at a distance and said, “Jesus, Master, Have mercy on us.” Jesus instructed them to go and show themselves to the priests, and as they went they were healed.
Nine of the group, with hearts running over with joy, hurried off to join their families and tell them the good news. This is the first level of thanksgiving—feeling gratitude in our hearts.
The second level is seen in the case of the tenth leper. Realizing what Jesus had done for him, he turned back to express in words what he felt in his heart. Before we censor the nine perhaps we should take a closer look at ourselves. How prone we are to say, “God knows I am thankful.” Or “My wife or husband knows I appreciate all she or he does.” And so we take everything for granted. How different life would be if we would learn to say, “Thank you.”
Passing on, Jesus drew near to Jericho. There by the roadside sat a blind man begging. Hearing that it was Jesus, he cried out for help. Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to him. Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, let me receive my sight.” In that moment his sight was restored and Luke tells us that he followed Jesus. This is the third level of thankfulness, one that feels a debt to God, and seeks to repay him.
In the city of Jericho Jesus met a little man by the name of Zacchaeus who had climbed up in a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus. You remember Jesus went to his house that day for dinner. Zacchaeus was too happy to eat. As he sat looking into the face of the Master, suddenly he spoke with abandon, “Lord, half my goods, I give to the poor.”
This is Thanksgiving at its highest and best, gratitude that finds expression in helpfulness to others. In fact, it is the only way we can serve God. As Mother Teresa expressed it, “What you do for others you do for Him.”
You know, for those of us who live in America, Thanksgiving is 365 days a year. And we are thankful. But how thankful are we? HOW thankful? Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.