Give not just thanks

Respond to a bounty of blessings with generosity

Nov 23, 2015 by

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As leaves fall and frozen turkeys thaw, the Thanksgiving season offers a chance to pause for a few days and reflect on the previous year’s goodness.

Some may be giving thanks for another season of harvest coming to a close. Some may be thankful for a new job, health or simply a newfound sense of peace. Even though it may not be audibly expressed in sanctuaries or around Thanksgiving tables, some might even harbor gratitude for a magical World Series run that found a way to top the previous baseball season’s near-storybook ending.

Yes, there is much for which thanks can be given.

In a consumeristic society, it’s easy to put the focus on being grateful for the things we possess. This isn’t limited to the physical realm of material things that fill the boxes we live in. Joy, hope, love and grace can also show up on our thankfulness ledgers, and it is with good reason that we acknowledge and tabulate such less-tangible blessings.

But in the hustle of getting enough sweet potatoes at the grocery store and unfurling crepe paper turkey decorations just so, well-meaning holiday observers can still get sidetracked. We often get caught up in the thanks, while overlooking the giving.

The Gospels are consistent in depictions of Jesus offering thanks, but only in two specific situations, and both for food — the feeding of the multitude and the Last Supper. In both cases, the reader only knows he “gave thanks” before one act of miraculous plenty and one act of selfless sacrifice.

With the rare exception of Mary perfuming his feet in John 12, Jesus wasn’t big on receiving. Scripture abounds with examples of his generosity, but it seems he and his biographers weren’t concerned with expressing or documenting the Messiah on the flip side of such situations.

As Thanksgiving arrives before so quickly giving way to Advent three days later, let us hold on to Christ’s spirit of giving and generosity. It is good and proper to give thanks when receiving, but remember also to offer thanks in giving. For while there is bounty in what we receive, there is still greater plenty in the ability to give.

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