The $64,000 question is: What do I do with all those Thanksgiving leftovers? What if I said you should keep them and multiply them into more? Right away you’ve figured out, I’m not talking about food. I’m talking about the real reason we celebrate Thanksgiving. I’m talking about the gratitude or thanks that is left over in our hearts.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because I cram everyone around an extended table set up in my kitchen. I get out the good china, half from mom and half from grandma, along with real glass glasses and serve the meal family style.
Before we say thanks and eat the meal, though, we go around the table and tell what we are thankful for. Our rule is no one can duplicate what another person said. However, this year most everyone was thankful for God and family in some shape or another.
I tear up just thinking about it. My mother and father would be more than proud of our family because what we are thankful for is each other, being together, living together and enjoying each other’s uniqueness. And we’re thankful to God for being alive to celebrate another year together. Although we voice it on Thanksgiving, this attitude of gratefulness stays with us all year.
This is good because an attitude of thanksgiving cannot help but change us. Ben Meiners, youth pastor at Christian Chapel, says it changes three things our outook, our inlook and our output.
There is a particular woman who frequents the pool where I go every day to walk. I feel incredibly sorry for her because her outlook is one of finding fault in everything and everybody. The water is too cold. The lifeguards don’t teach the kids swim lessons properly. The women who sit in the water and talk are taking up space others can use. The man who is exercising at her end of the pool is in her way.
A pessimistic outlook does away with any hint of joy. And yet, the attitude of thanksgiving grows joy.
As scripture says, “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”1
This can happen even in the midst of difficult situations like Paul and Silas locked in stocks in prison. At midnight they are praying and singing praise to God when the prison is shaken and all the doors fly open. Paul and Silas, though, don’t leave. They stay put and because of their attitude the jailer and everyone in his house trusts in Jesus.
Scripture2 records all of this as well as the fact that he and his entire household were joyful. This attitude of gratitude and joy is contagious!
When Paul and Silas began praising God in the midst of an impossible situation, they demonstrated “invincible joy,” Meiners said. “Grateful people have invincible joy. They allow Jesus to help them see things differently.”
“Who am I when I see inside?” Meiners asked. “Many time we matter to ourselves too much.”
Gratitude to God should change the way we think about ourselves. It should cultivate humility, Meiners continued.
Humility, though, is a real difficult concept to grasp. It’s not putting yourself down or lifting yourself up. It is thinking about yourself correctly.
As C.S. Lewis said about the man who has humility, “he will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” He also said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
The point is we think about ourselves way too much. Many times I have walked into a room and wondered what people were thinking about me. Through the years I’ve come to realize, they were not thining about me at all. They were wondering what I was thinking about them.
Here’s the bottom line, “I do not care what you or I think or say, I only care what God says. He says I am forgiven and my sins, past, present and future, are washed away. That’s all that matters,” Meiners said.
When I was growing up there was a television show called The Millionaire where a millionaire would give away $1 Million to someone he’d never met. Today that might be the same as giving away $10 Million. It’s hard to think about someone more generous than that, isn’t it?
We all are acquainted with One who is much more generous than that. Of course I’m talking about Jesus “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.”3
“Christ put Himself on the line,” Meiners said. “I am grateful for what God did for me. I need think about ways I can live more simply so I can give more.”
Paul talks bout being a cheerful giver. In doing so “God will generously provide everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”4
“Thanksgiving is all about generosity,” Meiners said. “A grateful heart produces generosity. Gratitude exercises the heart. When we give we experience a little of the divine nature of God.”
Beyond Thanksgiving, it is important to remember that when gratitude is left over in our hearts, it helps us focus on others, think about ourselves less and live generous lives.
After Thanksgiving, what is left over in your heart? For me, it is a whole lot of joy for what God has done for me and my family so much so that it challenges me to be more generous.
1 Psalms 28:7,NLT
2 Acts 16:16-34, NLT
3 2 Corinthians 8:9 NLT
4 2 Corinthians 9:7-8