My parents had a few strange customs around our dinner table growing up. First, we ate at the table. It was a discipline because dinner time usually happened around the same time that our favorite TV shows would come on. Second, My father would read or share a devotional from the Bible or an inspirational book. Third, we held hands and would all share something that we were thankful for. Nobody ever bothered to tell my parents that this was “Thanksgiving day thing” and not for the other 364 days out fo the year… at 2-3 family meals a day, times 365 days a year times about 18 years at home and you get the idea that we were a thankful bunch.
In those early years I was thankful for sweet and endearing things like my “momma” or my “daddy.” Around the age of middle childhood I was thankful for petty things like, “I’m thankful that I can beat my brother at basketball.” (Since then, he’s beat me a few times). In to the teen years it became, “I’m thankful for the food, now lets eat!”
Here lately as I try to observe our customs from the outside it dawned on me that sometimes arrogance parades as thankfulness. I wish I could take all the credit, but the thought really occurred to me when I woke up at 3 AM one morning and heard a few voices clearly speaking in the darkness of my room. They said…
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus:’God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
God really spoke to me that night, but before you go jumping to conclusions, I went to bed that night with the audio Bible cued up to play while I slept (and allow my subconscious to digest the scriptures). However, I was waking up from a deep sleep, was disoriented and it took me a few minutes to realize it was just the audio Bible and not a few strange British men who had broken into my house to dramatically read to me from Luke 18.
None-the-less, the seed was planted and I began to consciously think through the implications of how we show our gratitude to God and others. Real thankfulness doesn’t arise out of a comparison to others, it arrises out of a genuine dependence on God. The Pharisee wasn’t thankful, he was arrogant. The things he was “thankful” for were the things that he wasn’t. He was thankful that he wasn’t like this “sinner” beside him. The tax-collector was just calling out for mercy.
There is difference in being thankful that I have a home and being thankful that I am not homeless. The first way is thankfulness, the second is arrogance. Its subtle, but it’s there. One way is gratitude for the blessings of God, the other is to make myself better than others.
This Thanksgiving I’m aiming to be truly thankful to God for all the blessings he’s given me… and to not be arrogant. Though in a moment of weakness I might say that I’m thankful I’m not an Alabama fan.