Before our next issue is published, Thanksgiving day will have come and gone. And since this holiday will also be observed by services in our churches, it is perhaps well if we turn our thoughts for a few moments to this subject. We shall not recall for you its origin since that was very ably done in a feature article which was written for us in an issue which appeared in this publication approximately a year ago and which, I am sure, you have all enjoyed. Rather, we should like to treat the subject under the title which appears as a caption for this article. If you will bear with me for a few moments, we should like to call attention to a very common misconception and seek in our own way to define thanksgiving in its true meaning.
As we see it then, the prevalent error with which we deal when speaking of Thanksgiving, be it as a special day or as an everyday term, is that we are always going back to the ruts of being thankful by comparison. And especially will this be noticed if you observe the current expressions of this year. For events have transpired which so easily lend themselves to this misconception and if we employ the general terminology, we too shall be liable to the same error. Shall we look at just a few of these?
First and foremost is, of course, that during the course of the year, the war has come to an end. Immediately, then, we are thankful by comparison for we set peace and war over against each other and express gratitude because the pain, anguish, terror and death of this great conflagration has ceased. Sons and daughters are being returned to their native land and hearts of parents and loved ones are filled to overflowing with gratitude because of that fact. And we thank God. And that in itself is also proper for He maketh wars to cease. But what is such were not the case and we were still busily engaged in the conflict? Would we then have to say that we would be thankful if only this terrible war would end? And what about those who will never again see their sons? Would they be able to express their gratitude? And how about our brethren who were on the “losing side”? Can they share with us in our Thanksgiving?
And again, we are thankful by comparison when we think of the misery and wretchedness and poverty of those in foreign lands many thousands of whom, without our aid, would die of starvation, be frozen to death or, who in despair, would take their lives by their own hand. And as we view our condition in comparison with their state, we are grateful that we may enjoy food, shelter and clothing and not only the necessities but also many of the luxuries of this life. But let us suppose that we were the ones who had been pillaged, whose lands had been devastated, whose crops and natural resources had been destroyed? Would we then say we could be thankful if only our material conditions were improved and our distresses relieved?
For purposes of illustration, it should not be necessary to cite more examples. I am sure that you must understand by now what our meaning is when we speak of falling into the ruts of being thankful by comparison. And if that is all we understand by being thankful, it would be well if we as churches discontinue the practice of observing this day by means of special services! For the essence of such thankfulness is material and carnal though not necessarily sinful. For it is still of this earth earthy. We are stooped with our noses to the ground and the clods of this earth smell sweet to our nostrils! We have need, sore need, of lifting our eyes to a higher horizon or rather, let me say to the only horizon and to express and stress in our gratitude that which only the redeemed can visualize. And there is no optometrist who can fit or prescribe spectacles for the eyes of those who cannot see these things. And those who are afflicted with a type of near-sightedness which permits them only to look down and observe the earth which lies a few feet beneath their eyes, they I repeat, who are thus afflicted will invariably find their thankfulness only by comparison. They will find their blessings in things and in so doing will do violence to that which is greater, or rather, to that which alone is great. For, remember this, that war and peace, prosperity and adversity, health and sickness are condition of this life only and if we have seen nothing more we are terrestrial termites seeking life by masticating the things of this earth and will find, to our dismay, that they perish and we with them!
Let us then rather cast our eyes heavenward and our first cause for gratitude will be found in the redemption which has been wrought for us by our God through His only begotten Son. And then we find our gratitude primarily in our having been redeemed from sin. And behold! This gratitude may be expressed and shared not only by us but also by our brethren in foreign lands regardless of their material state! And all other reasons for gratitude fade into insignificance and will be evaluated in their proper proportion and relation to the things which are eternal.
Think not that we would despise a comfortable state. Think not that we would rejoice in misery. Not at all! But let us not find our thanksgiving in the first instance, by comparison with those who are in a miserable state (and which thanksgiving would be at their expense), but rather let us look up and doing this we shall gain a true and reliable measure for then we shall see that we, too, by nature, are poor, naked, hungry and filled with war, bitterness, malice, greed and envy from which we can alone be delivered not by a declaration of peace, not by full employment, not by bountiful crops, not by an abundance of material resources but only by the grace of Almighty God, a washing by the blood of Christ, a being clothed with righteousness and a being filled and satisfied with the Bread of Life.