Thanksgiving Day


Thanksgiving Day

Give thanks where thanks is due.

In the early 17th century, among America’s pilgrim settlers, thanksgiving celebrations had one thing in common: The thanksgiving was directed toward God. It did not matter that many suffered hard times—they believed that God was their Creator and Provider and that all good things ultimately came from Him.

These celebrations were scheduled on this basis and were never assigned fixed positions on the calendar, though they were usually declared after the harvest in the autumn. When things were going well, or some special dispensation occurred such as the arrival of a crucial supply ship, New Englanders declared a day of thanksgiving.

The thanksgiving festival soon became a popular holiday among the New England states. During succeeding decades, several of the original 13 colonies adopted annual thanksgiving days.

In 1789, U.S. President George Washington declared a national day of thanksgiving in honor of the new Constitution. But it wasn’t until the Civil War that the American peoples decided to observe Thanksgiving Day as a public holiday. Ever since President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation, the nation has officially celebrated an annual Thanksgiving Day in November.

At that time, the peoples of America were conscious of their responsibility to be thankful. They recognized what they had to be thankful for and to whom they owed their thanks.

Is this still the case today? This is a question each of us must ask ourselves.

Herbert W. Armstrong commented extensively on this in his book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Referring to the prosperity the nation of America has experienced, Mr. Armstrong stated:

[O]ur people generally have not realized. Nor have they been grateful. Nor have they given God thanks, nor accepted the responsibility that accompanies their lavish blessings.Few realize that every desired, prized possession imposes with it the obligation of responsibility for its use. … When God lavished on our peoples such wealth and power and economic possession as no peoples have ever before enjoyed, did we appreciate what we had or feel the commensurate sense of responsibility for its wise and proper use? We did not! We didn’t even recognize how great was our blessing …!

Few seem willing to admit it today, but Americans have not gotten their national blessings and prosperity by their own goodness. God, out of His goodness, has given America incredible abundance in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These blessings have been showered upon the birthright nations descending from Abraham, which include Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, among others. The United States and Britain in Prophecy details the exciting and astounding story of just how these nations received such blessings.

American citizens today still have much to be grateful for. As a whole, they have been blessed with the highest standard of living of any people in the history of mankind.

Their heritage, however, has been buried. Their fabulous resources have been squandered; their beautiful land, polluted. Generally, they have forgotten that God is our Provider.

Thus, because of ingratitude, because of disobedience, these undeserved blessings are being taken away.

But in our individual lives, this need not be so!

Thanksgiving is not just for Americans and should not be limited to one day a year. All peoples, owing even their very existence to God, should show their gratitude. It should be a daily occurrence.

Each of us has much to be thankful for. In appreciating God’s bounty that is showered upon us, we will ensure God does not take those blessings from us individually.

Ultimately, as many of America’s early pilgrims recognized, all we have that is good comes from God, the source of all goodness (James 1:17).

Now how exactly do we show our gratitude to God for all He has given us?

Yes, we are to thank Him in prayer and in attitude. But how else? In the Continental Congress Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1782, the U.S. Congress demonstrated a basic understanding of how to give thanks to God. This proclamation recommended the people “testify to their gratitude to God for His goodness by a cheerful obedience of His laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness” (emphasis ours).

Indeed, we show our gratitude to God through obedience. If we are thankful to God and seek to obey His law, He promises to bless us. God will answer our prayers if we are striving to obey Him and ask Him in a thankful attitude. “In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).

A person who understands and follows God’s way of life and is obedient to God will receive manifold blessings to be thankful for. Obedience to God’s law promotes the health, happiness and welfare of each of us. It is the way to success, accomplishment and joy. It is the way of freedom from heartache, from pain, suffering, unhappiness.

Seek now to follow this way of life—this way of obedience to God—that you may be exceedingly thankful!

For more on America’s Founding Fathers, see our booklet Character in Crisis.