Why Thanksgiving?

Over the next two or three weeks I thought it might be a good time to discuss thanksgiving.  You’ll note that is in lower case because we are not talking about the Holiday loaded with Turkey, Tryptophan and Touchdowns, but the act of giving thanks.  Today in thinking about thanksgiving we want to ask; what is its purpose and what is our part in it?

Here is a logical chain to consider.

  1. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”  Everything that is or was in the world belongs to God, by right, as the Creator.
  2. We, no less than any other part of all that is, are part of God’s creation, therefore
  3. We are God’s possessions, His chattel.
  4. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”  Not only are we God’s by right of creation, to the extent we are Christians we are His “new”creations.
  5. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works”.  God created and then recreated us to do Good Works.
  6. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  So the purpose of good works is to produce thankfulness among people directed toward God.
  7. Thankfulness brings honor and glory to God which is;
  8. The entire point of creation in the first place.

So a couple of things stem from this bit of tautological legerdemain.  God created all that is for His own pleasure.  That His creation gives him pleasure can be inferred from the fact that He looked at creation and found it good.  Creation, the physical world, is not contrary to God’s will, it exists at His will and for His pleasure.

Among the things He created are people, with the capacity to give thanks to God, for their existence, for creation, for provision for his presence in their lives.  Creation in general pleases God and exists to His glory and thankfulness from those he created pleases and glorifies Him in particular.

And our place in this whole chain of thanksgiving that glorifies God is not to just be thankful, but to provoke thanksgiving among others.  Consider Ephesians 2:10 (quoted above) in a little context:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God has been working, since before the beginning of time to show His greatness through His creation.  It is somehow easy to see how God is glorified by something grand.  Astrophysicists believe they have discovered a distant star system that consists of a star bigger than our sun and a black hole with a mass about the same size as our sun orbiting each other in close proximity.  The black hole is sucking the material that comprises the star into itself.  As the material approaches the black hole its velocity becomes enormous, some of the material falls into the black hole but some is ejected into space as speeds as high as 60% of the speed of light.  Two fountains of matter, in huge amounts, jetting into space at over 175 kilometers per second (earth to moon in just over 2 seconds).  Such a thing happens on a scale so grand that it is difficult to imagine.  But its easy to see how that glorifies God.

On the other hand, the Bible is clear that man is the measure of creation and its pinnacle.   Not only was man given dominion over creation, but for no other part of creation was Christ sent to die.  Arguably if everything God does is for his pleasure and glory, then what happens in and with whatever is the pinnacle of creation brings Him the most glory and pleasure.  Its hard to fathom, but it may just be that a simple act of sincere thanksgiving to God may bring Him greater glory and pleasure than a gigantic fountain of stellar matter blasting into space at a significant fraction of C.

And then there is good news.  We were created, and recreated, to incite thanksgiving.  Jesus says this directly in in Matthew 5:14-16.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven

We are to consider ourselves God’s handiwork, His work of art, created from before time to do good works that will make other people glorify (give thanks to) God.  How are we doing at that?  When was the last time somebody gave thanks to God for something we have done?

I think this is a key to understanding something we talked about before, that business of having done things to the least means it was done for Christ.  If we consider that the very best we can do is usually not really enough and usually not all the good (especially compared to God), who is it then that we can really do anything for?

Another thought:  what if the heart of thanksgiving is what we do to incite others to give thanks and glorify God?

Why thanksgiving?  The same reason that everything exists and the same reason that we are saved; because it glorifies God.