There has to be a country song that includes a line like, “Here We Go Again,” and if I knew it, I’d feel like singing a chorus of it right now. Impulses like that should at least keep me from publishing a video podcast, right? In any case, I can hardly believe that the first installment of the holidays is less than a week away. Things are better in some ways than last year, and I’m looking forward to special times with family and friends, but nonetheless, Thanksgiving will be challenging once again. We may be less locked down and isolated than we were a year ago, but the inflationary impact of unbridled government spending coupled with the repercussions of dictatorial mandates are undoubtedly casting a shadow of uncertainty over everything. Thanksgiving should be a time characterized by an attitude of positive optimism that comes with focusing on the blessings and benefits we’ve received. Unfortunately, it’s hard to generate much of that when the airwaves continually bombard us with so much emotionally charged divisive content.
What God Didn’t Say ~
Times like these make it a really good idea to set a day apart for the whole nation to focus on being thankful. And the fact that Thanksgiving Day takes place regardless of whatever happens to be monopolizing the news cycle at the moment makes it even better. Thanksgiving is a practice closer to the heart of God than we are generally prone to realize, and His many invitations and admonitions about it were never dependent on favorable conditions and optimistic circumstances. Let me reinforce that a bit by inserting a few “unauthorized addendums” into a familiar Psalm, to highlight a few conditions that God did not require to prompt our thanksgiving.
For instance, God did not say…
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, …if your health is good and your budget’s in the black.
And into His courts with praise … if your political party is finally running things.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name … if Amazon delivers on time.
For the Lord is good; … when your favorite team wins their division title.
His mercy is everlasting, … except for the idiots who keep cutting you off in traffic.
And His truth endures to all generations … rejoice, others will eventually know you were right. (Psalm 100:4–5 NKJV – with apologies for unauthorized “Gallagher addendums”.)
Thanksgiving has special significance to God, but considering what He’s done for us, figuring out how to express our gratitude in ways that are really meaningful to Him is the question. All kinds of lists are floating around the internet offering helpful ideas about new Thanksgiving traditions to establish and activities to include. There are games to play, key Bible passages to explore, contests to engage in, and crafts to create. There is no shortage of suggested ways to make Thanksgiving meaningful.
Yet Another Suggestion ~
But in spite of all that, I’d like to respectfully submit another approach, and it requires editing another quote. Oscar Wilde made a comment a few generations ago that we still hear repeated occasionally. Unfortunately, the closing part of his comment is often omitted, and the other part is frequently misquoted. What we often hear people say is something like this, “Imitation is the sincerest compliment we can offer” … or sometimes “Imitation is the sincerest form of praise.” But what Oscar actually said was a bit different and maybe not so uplifting. He said,
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”
Thinking about that when taken together, Wilde’s observation might help us reconsider our obsession with mimicking entertainment icons. Many of us unquestioningly choose to “dress like, talk like, look like, and act like” those who openly mock nearly every principle God ordained. We could be inadvertently elevating them to a level of greatness they don’t deserve – and relegating ourselves to a level of mediocrity beneath what God intended us to represent. But that’s a message for another day.
In any case, I’d like to borrow Oscar Wilde’s thought and reframe it in a way that might be a bit more relevant to us for Thanksgiving. What if we said it this way? “Imitation is the sincerest, most meaningful response that redeemed, hell-deserving sinners can offer to the One whose name is above every name.” Jesus highlighted the kind of response He wants most from us by asking a simple question:
But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46 NKJV)
Obedience is more powerful in expressing our love and our gratitude to Jesus Christ than any ritual, religious tradition, or creedal affirmation we can perform. But obedience is a broad subject and it covers a lot of ground. It’s the basis for defining faithfulness, a quality God values and rewards in all of us. So, if we’re going to offer obedience as a special expression of thanks, in what context can we do it in a way that’s most meaningful?
No Blessing in Easy Obedience ~
Obedience in some cases is not all that challenging. There are behaviors that we may not struggle with personally even though multitudes of others are enslaved by them. For instance, I don’t struggle with drunkenness because I don’t drink alcoholic beverages. I drank in my younger days, but I never liked the taste of it, and drinking it never led to a good outcome. I’m deeply grateful for the forgiveness of sins I committed in those days and have no inclination to repeat them. I’m never tempted in that area and have been flawlessly obedient for decades. If I decided to offer the Lord a commitment to sobriety as an indication of my gratitude on Thanksgiving Day, it wouldn’t be as meaningful as other things that might be more challenging.
Easily won victories, like cheap gifts, are unimpressive. Easy things never make us stronger. Both individually and as a nation, it’s the challenges that produce strength. The energy we expend sends a message to our body to generate more. Applauding our obedience in the areas we don’t struggle with, while yielding to our weaknesses, subverts the growth we all want to see.
Thanksgiving Day will find even the lowest of us struggling to find some way to express our love and appreciation to the One whose name is above every name. Perhaps the “sincerest” expression we can offer is to strive for obedience in areas where we often fail and where we will always be helpless without Him. Then, with more sincerity than ever, may we begin by joyfully obeying what the Psalmist called us to do and… Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise!
May our grateful obedience and love for one another
be a powerful act of worship this Thanksgiving.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “Imitation is the sincerest, most meaningful response that redeemed, hell-deserving sinners can offer to the One whose name is above every name. Why do we call Him ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things He says?” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Obedience is more powerful in expressing our love and gratitude to Jesus Christ than any ritual, religious tradition, or creedal affirmation. Obedience is the basis for defining faithfulness, a quality God values and rewards in all of us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Easily won victories, like cheap gifts, are unimpressive. Easy things never make us stronger. Both individually and as a nation, it’s the challenges that produce strength.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Thanksgiving Day will find us struggling to express our love and appreciation to the One whose name is above every name. Perhaps the “sincerest” expression to offer is striving for obedience in areas where we often fail and will be helpless without Him.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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