Who Do You Give Thanks to at Thanksgiving?

In light of the Thanksgiving holiday, we’re going to take a break from the regular fare of careers and money on this site. There are, after all, some things that are more important than money—and even careers! One of them is marked by this very holiday, but I think it often gets lost in the shuffle.

We’ll be sitting down to celebrate this holiday we call Thanksgiving, and what is it we will be thankful for? More specifically, who are we giving thanks to? Are we giving thanks to anyone?

Who Do You Give Thanks to at Thanksgiving?
Who Do You Give Thanks to at Thanksgiving?

The definition of “thanksgiving”

Maybe it would be best if we begin with a definition. Dictionary.com provides the following definitions of the term “thanksgiving” (little “t”):

“thanksgiving–noun 1. the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, esp. to god. 2. an expression of thanks, esp. to God. 3. a public celebration in acknowledgment of divine favor or kindness. 4. a day set apart for giving thanks to God.”

Notice that though the word itself is a noun, each of the definitions given describes an action—the giving of thanks. More specifically, it lists a divine entity—even more specifically, God, or a “god”—as the object of that action.

When we give thanks, we don’t merely put ourselves into some sort of state of thankfulness, as though it’s some sort of zone we enter where we’re at peace with the world. No, we’re directing that act/emotion to a source outside ourselves—the source we identify as providing the bounty we enjoy.

The many distractions of modern life

What ever personal definitions we want to assign to it, what ever modern re-interpretations may be floating out there in the pop culture, the Thanksgiving holiday is a day set aside specifically for the purpose of giving thanks to that Higher Power.

It’s probably easier for us to deny that Power than at any other time in history. Surrounded by modern conveniences—cars, televisions, music, computers and videos, comfortable in our temperature controlled homes, and having access to a pill to cure what ever seems to ail us—we can insulate ourselves for the “need” for any help that others before us sought from the divine.

But do modern conveniences mean that there is no God? At what point in history were we able to break the historic chain of worship and turn to ourselves and the work of our own hands for all of our concerns? And when we come to the end of our lives, can we or our creations preserve our lives, or offer us eternal peace?

A song I learned in elementary school

When I was young, every year around this time of the year, we’d sing the following song:

“We gather together
to ask the Lord’s blessing;
he chastens and hastens
his will to make known.
The wicked oppressing
now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name,
he forgets not his own.”
–We Gather Together, by Edward Kremser

We learned this song and sang it in public schools! Merely a generation ago, the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday was beyond question. It was a public holiday established for the purpose of thanking God for the many blessings He’d given us over the previous year, and even over our entire lifetimes.

What’s changed since then?

The object of my thanks this Thanksgiving

I don’t believe that anything humankind has done—or anything I’ve done personally—somehow means that God no longer exists. Not splitting the atom, landing a man on the moon or perfecting the microchip. While all those developments might impress the heck out of us, to an all powerful, infinite God, they’re the equivalent of ants stacking sand in a neat pile in the woods, and nothing more.

If we have any shred of belief that there is a God—even if we aren’t entirely certain of who He is and what function He plays in our lives—then we have to acknowledge His power over all things. Translation: all blessings come from Him, because nothing can be apart from Him.

Here’s my prayer of thanks on this holiday:

I thank God in Heaven for the blessings He’s poured on me all of my life. For the troubles He’s seen me through and the troubles He’s kept me from. For the time He’s given me in this life and the people He’s enriched my life with. I thank Him for the skills and abilities He’s given me. And for the balance He’s instilled in the universe that sustains us all. I thank Him for Jesus Christ—His Son and my Lord and Savior. Because of Jesus, no matter what I’ve done in the past, am doing in the present or will do in the future—my eternal destiny will remain ever secure.

Am I thankful for my country, my community, my family, my achievements and even the food I’ll eat on Thanksgiving Day? Absolutely! But all are components of the bigger picture blessings God gives us all our lives, often without us even noticing.

Who Do You Give Thanks to at Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is a prime time for each of us to take a break from our “busy lives” and consider the Eternal. If we’re truly thankful, then we need to seriously ask Who do we give thanks to at Thanksgiving?

( Photo by jennie-o )

18 Responses to Who Do You Give Thanks to at Thanksgiving?

  1. Awesome post! Great point about all those things being just a part of the larger picture! Love the prayer. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. All blessings come from Him, and anything good in our lives can be directly traced to his blessing and grace in our lives. Thank you Jesus for sending us your son to save us from our sins!

  3. Great post Kevin!

    There is so much to be thankful for EVERY day and I think folks are finally realizing this.

    Tomorrow is not promised – so live each day as if it is your last – tell loved ones you care, spend time with them….

    So many people have regrets because they did not know what was around the corner (lol).

    Happy Thanksgiving to all 🙂

  4. Angela – Maybe the fact that a lot of people are struggling financially is making more of them thankful for what they DO have. Unfortunately, when things are going well for us, we seem less likely to be thankful, preferring to give ourselves and our own skills and brilliance all the credit. But who gave us those good times, or the skills? That’s the point we can easily miss.

  5. Hi Kevin:

    Will you be doing a post for “Easter 2012″…

    Angela J. Shirley
    “How To Survive Unemployment”

  6. Hi Angela–Now that you mention it, I think I will. I don’t normally do Easter posts because it falls during what is usally a busy time for me (income tax work). But now that you’ve brought it up I think I will!

  7. AWESOME and thank you. I NEED this forum – I am looking forward to it being active again. Let me know what I can do to help.

  8. These days on internet, we don’t get much of such articles lifting up our Great God and His Son Jesus Christ. We get the opposite and it is far from even mentioning God as God, but God as god with a small g. Kevin M thanks for this wonderful article that brings back sanity and the real reason for thanksgiving this season. we like to think that we have achieved all of life’s bounties by our careful planning and cautious savings to achieve the full table! We need to get back to the basics and say a hearty thanksgiving prayer as we sink our teeth into the savoury flesh of our turkey, and feasting on the fully spread table of nice things which have come because God has provided the ability, appetite and power to eat and to enjoy the satisfaction thereof. Go Kevin M, way to go.

  9. Thanks Lliene, I’m humbled by your comments. But you’re unfortunately correct, that discussions of God and Jesus are mysteriously absent from the internet, and also from the mainstream media, even at high Christian holidays. It’s gotten so uncommon to see any kind of acknowledgement that I was shocked this morning when the local newspaper flyer had a half page explanation of the origin of the candy cane, which is symbolic of Jesus Christ. When I was a kid that sort of post would have been natural at the holidays. Today it’s shocking to see it in a public space.

    It’s also unfortunate that the holidays have lost their meaning and have turned into self-indulgent shopping events. What’s happened at Thanksgiving is totally tragic. Stores are not opening on Thanksgiving and overnight into “black Friday”, retail America’s real holiday. Low paid employees are being forced to work while upper management stay home and enjoy the holiday with their families.

    That said, for those of us still listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, we should do our best to honor God on this day. We can’t change the world, but we can remain true to ourselves and our God in a world that’s rapidly going mad, all while certain it’s heading in the right direction.

  10. Thanks so much, Kevin, for this heart felt, inspirational message. It is also touching to read all of the responses you have received. Best wishes to you and your family for a blessed and Thankful, Thanksgiving.

  11. Thank you for being brave and thanking Jesus Christ. I too remember in public school celebrating all things Thanksgiving and Christmas and not thinking it was wrong! Anyways I really like your post because they make sense. You cut through the crap and give me hope for the future! Thank you!

  12. Wow Terri, thanks, but I never thought of it as being brave. I think we should all speak from the heart, and stop with this PC nonsense, and always worrying about “offending” someone. Those who attempt to shut us up never worry themselves that they’re offending us, or that they’re interfering with our right to be. I’ve heard that the Bible uses the term “do not fear” or some variation 365 times – it’s obvious God is trying to tell us something in this very day. But as Jesus often said, “let he who has ears hear”. Will we dare?

  13. There are still places that have no P.C. fear. This past summer I spent almost a month in Texas. I have some family there and slowly but surely they all seem to be migrating there.
    Anyway one night I attended an actual rodeo in FT Worth. Before the event got started the announcer got on the P.A. and says lets bow are heads and pray. The whole crowd was silent and this guy pumped out a prayer like he was Billy Graham at a crusade.

    Needless to say, I was totally amazed. If we we’re in NY ( My home state) the people would have sent a lynch mob after him.
    Over the course of the month there people had the attitude of too bad if people don’t like it. This is who we are. There are 49 other states to live in.

    So there are still places that still try and honor god. It made me want to pack up and move there. Which I may do down the road anyway.

    At this point if any of us care what others think of us we need to examine are own heart and ask why? I stopped caring 25 years ago.
    That’s what I am thankful for. It doesn’t matter what happens to me on this earth. It really doesn’t. God even says everything we see with are eyes is passing away. The day we are born we begin to die. So I say kick maximum butt while your here on earth.

    The end game is all that matters. Where we spend eternity.

  14. Hi Tim – I think you were right about that parallel lives comment you made yesterday, because here’s another area where we’ve had similar experiences. I grew up in NJ, which has very similar cultural norms to NY. Many years ago my wife and I went to a college football game in Tuscaloosa, AL (Alabama vs. Mississippi State). They played Amazing Grace, and after the announcer referred to it as “a song that has deep meaning to Alabamians”. I remember thinking to myself “Is this legal?”.

    That would never have happened in NJ outside of a church. But Alabama has a very different culture from NJ, NY and many of the other “progressive” states, and as you say, they don’t care. But having lived in nearby Georgia for more than two decades, I can tell you that the “New South” is increasingly falling into line with the progressive platform. There’s a real conflict. On the one hand it is the Bible Belt, and Christianity is deeply embedded in the culture. But patriotism and compliance are also deeply embedded. So while they cling to faith, they’ll honor national law, and one thing the South is very good at is complying with/enforcing the law.

    For better or worse, Christianity is at a crossroads in America. But as you say, we must always focus on Eternity, and not necessarily the goings on in front of us. This is when we need to be reminded of what Jesus said of the Church – “…the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18

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