“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day…You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today” (Deuteronomy8:10-11, 17-18).
Moses called the people of Israel to remember the source of their blessings in these verses. He reminded them that God had given them not only wealth, but also the ability to produce wealth. On this American holiday of Thanksgiving, many of us have eaten and are satisfied. We have enjoyed reunions with family and watched football games on large screen televisions. We have enjoyed the plenty enjoyed by much of our society, especially when compared to much of the rest of the world. Sometimes we, like the Israelites, are tempted to attribute our successes to our hard work, refined skills, and superior intelligence. We forget parents who taught us principles of ethics and how to work hard. We forget mentors who carefully pruned and polished us as we learned those skills. As the biblical passage notes, we forget God who gave us the ability to produce wealth.
Thanksgiving Day is, above all else, a day to say, “Thank you.” I spent some time the last two days with my mother, who suffered a stroke several weeks ago and so was unable to join us for our Thanksgiving celebration. I realized, as I sat by her bed, how thoroughly inept I feel when it comes to expressing my gratitude to my mother. That sense of unworthiness only grows when we consider our gratitude to our Creator and Sustainer. So, join me in taking a moment to bow our heads and say “Thank you” to our God for life, for love, for forgiveness, for salvation, and for the ability to provide for our families and to share with those who have less. Remember also to thank those whom God has used to bless you. Remember to pray, and to say, “Thank you.”
O God who gives life and love, Thank you for life and for joy. Even when we suffer, you teach us as a father teaches his children through discipline. Thank you for days when we may pause and reflect on how much we enjoy has been given to us through the sacrifices of others and your own great compassion. Awaken to repentance those who destroy or steal what you have given to others. Teach us to value love and compassion more highly than possessions. Remind us how to forgive. Remove from our hearts the bitterness that divides us. Make us whole and holy. In Jesus’ name, amen.