Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A cautionary Thanksgiving text

One of the traditional texts for Thanksgiving is taken from Deuteronomy 8. It is well worth the time to read. This text makes so clear the dangers of having everything go the way we want them to go. When my life is easy and my bank account and my stomach are full, when I am at ease and conflicts around me are at a minimum, I am so much in danger of forgetting the God who provided it all. It's a little ironic that our traditional Thanksgiving is filled with self-indulgence and self-absorption. The Pilgrims who we traditionally remember this time of year gave thanks not for their abundance, but for their survival. They worshipped not because God had given them what they wanted, but because they were desperate and recognized God as their only hope.

The Thanksgiving holiday was instituted by Abraham Lincoln after the 1863 battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg in the Civil War. These were desperate times when the fate of this nation hung by a thread and everyone could see it.

When Moses spoke the words of Deuteronomy 8 to the Israelites, they were lined up on the eastern edge of the Jordan, waiting to enter the Promised Land. They had just finished 40 years of wandering around in the wilderness -- a period they endured because their parents had been afraid to trust God, afraid to enter the land and take hold of what God had promised them (see Numbers 13-14). Now this leaner generation was ready to follow Joshua into the land, but Moses looked ahead and recognized the danger inherent in prosperity. "Don't forget," he says, "That it is God who gives you all these things -- your land, your homes, your food, your ability to work and make money. It's all a gift and you are dependent."

God grant us the vision to see both our blessedness and our dependence through his eyes this Thanksgiving!

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