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‘Thanksgiving Day’ should have an ‘S’ on the end

A girl eats while sitting at dining table during Thanksgiving.
A girl eats while sitting at dining table during Thanksgiving. | Getty Images

One of the wonderful things about Thanksgiving is that it’s a uniquely American holiday. It doesn’t commemorate a battle, a birthday or an anniversary. It’s a day set aside with the specific purpose of giving thanks to God.

Regardless of what the revisionists tell you, many of our founding fathers were committed Christians. Even among those who weren’t strong in their faith in Christ, they believed the Bible was the Word of God, had respect for God, and understood that God gave us this great nation. So, in 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation that set aside “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God.”

Fast-forward to 2023, and Thanksgiving Day is, for many, just a holiday that basically falls between two other holidays that we’ve managed to monetize: Halloween and Christmas. It has been reduced to a day for getting together and stuffing ourselves before going shopping on Black Friday.

Having an attitude of gratitude

In fact, I see a lot more promotions for Black Friday than I do for Thanksgiving Day. Traditionally, stores were closed on Thanksgiving, but now many of them are open. And people don’t even call the holiday Thanksgiving on many occasions. They refer to it as “turkey day.”

We should be giving thanks to God every day. We should have an attitude of gratitude. Interestingly, studies have revealed that gratitude improves our health and affects our outlook on life. Dr. Robert Emmons, a scientific expert on gratitude, said, “Gratitude blocks toxic emotions such as envy, resentment, regret — emotions that can destroy our happiness.”

In the Old Testament book of Psalms, we find “A Psalm of Thanksgiving” that begins, “Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (100:1–3 NLT).

This psalm originally was given to the people of Israel. After they finally left Egypt and made their long trek through the wilderness, ultimately arriving in the Promised Land, God essentially said to them, “When you enter the Promised Land, settle down in your homes and have plenty to eat, don’t forget Me.”

This can happen very easily to us as well. When we are in trouble, when we are facing a crisis, we call on God, don’t we? But when things are going reasonably well, when the bills are paid, everyone is healthy, and we have food in our stomachs, we can start to forget about God.

Reminding ourselves to give thanks

God was saying to the Israelites, “I want you to remember to give thanks to Me.” They needed a reminder. And so do we.

Notice this psalm is addressed not only to Israel but to “all the earth” (verse 1). It’s addressed to all people and all generations.

Let’s also notice that not a word is said about material things in this psalm of praise. Our rejoicing on Thanksgiving Day (and really, every day) should not be based on what we have materially; it should be based on Who we know.

Possessions come and go. Friends come and go. So does time. And eventually, even our health fails us. But God does not come and go. Jesus comes and stays. I love the words of Hebrews 13: “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you'” (verse 5 NLT).

The pressure is on to get the perfect gift for someone else (or maybe you’re hoping someone else will get the perfect gift for you). But how many of us can remember what we received last Christmas? So much of our focus is on getting a certain thing, and we think that it somehow will bring the contentment that we’re seeking.

David wrote in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (verse 1 NKJV). If the Lord is your shepherd, you will not want. And if you’re always wanting, then I would have to ask whether the Lord is your shepherd.

We don’t have a lot of interaction with sheep in our culture today, but when David wrote this psalm, people were very familiar with them. And there was one thing universally known about sheep: they’re relatively unintelligent creatures.

Sheep are skittish, easily frightened, slow to learn, prone to stray, and totally dependent on the guidance and protection of their shepherd. Sheep can’t protect themselves. They don’t have sharp teeth or claws and can’t run fast. They are basically leg of lamb for the taking.

If you’re a smart sheep, you will follow your shepherd, because smart sheep know that the shepherd is always looking out for them. In other words, if God tells us in the Bible to do something, it’s because He loves us. And if He tells us not to do something, it’s also because He loves us. He is looking out for our welfare.

Jesus said, “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32 NLT).

Maybe you’re in a situation where things are not making sense. It’s hard for you, and there is a lot of uncertainty. But you can still give thanks. Psalm 107:1 tells us, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (NLT).

You can give thanks because God loves you and because He is good. You can give thanks because God is in control of your life. And you can give thanks because, ultimately, God will work all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (see Romans 8:28).

Perhaps you’re thinking, “But I don’t see the end yet.” No, but you still can give thanks, because God does see the end. Ultimately it is going to be good, and you will thank Him later. Until that day, thank him now.

Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author and movie producer. “Jesus Revolution,” a feature film about Laurie’s life from Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company, releases in theaters February 24, 2023.

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