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Thanksgiving in an age of ingratitude

By Pastor Tom Anderson

Jesus once healed a group of ten lepers. It was one of his most stunning miracles because leprosy was a sentence to poverty, loneliness and a long, slow death. But there is no disease, no condition of life that Jesus cannot completely reverse. Even more amazing that Jesus’ miracle was the almost complete ingratitude of those who received this healing. Only one person out of the ten returned to say thank you to Jesus! You can read the whole story in Luke 17:11-19.

What if all God wanted out of you was to return to Him and say thank you? What if gratitude is all God requires of us? The hymn writer put it, “Let all with heart and voice; before his throne rejoice; praise is his gracious choice. Alleluia! Amen!” God knows a grateful heart produces a grateful life that honors God in every way.

Modern America has in many ways become a culture of ingratitude. It’s been astonishing to see the names which are being erased from public places and civic memory: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln. Statues are being removed–not by angry mobs but by the careful deliberations of city councils, school boards and university trustees. The reason given for this program of forgetting is that our forebears were sinners. Duh! We’ve known that much from the start! All people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

The truth is God uses sinners to do great things to benefit all people. Who else does God have to work with but sinners? God can use crooked sticks to draw straight lines for his glory! The real issue in America today is ingratitude. Many are simply not thankful for our history. Many are not thankful for our Constitution. Many are not thankful for the police, the military or even the engines of prosperity that we all depend on. We’ve become futile in our thinking–completely blind to the rich blessings that God has bestowed upon our generation through the history of our country.

In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln made this proclamation:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe.

It’s hard to imagine any elected official making a similar statement today. Many people today freely volunteer what they are thankful for. But few ever mention who is the recipient of our thanksgiving. What good is praise if it has no address? Is it really gratitude if it is only words spoken into the air? Authentic thankfulness is something we address to Someone–namely God.

Only one leper said thank you. God's advice to each of us is to be the one. Be the one who returns thanks to Jesus Christ. Freedom, democracy, prosperity, even salvation have a rich history. Be the one who sees and gives thanks to the One who gave the blessings we enjoy today and in eternity.


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