Why the Whole World Needs Thanksgiving
Today is Thanksgiving in America. The meaning of Thanksgiving is more important than ever, and more important than Americans realize. In fact, the whole world needs Thanksgiving.
Most people accept that saying “Thank you” and showing gratitude is polite and civil, that it acknowledges others and makes them feel special, needed and loved. This is all true.
But Thanksgiving is a need.
There is a powerful and majestic dimension to being thankful. Showing gratitude is an essential part of solving problems, even colossal problems that appear to have no solution. Most people do not know this, but Thanksgiving is part of the solution to virtually all of our crises, whether small and individual or colossal and collective.
The tradition of Thanksgiving goes back to the pilgrims in the early 17th century, but it wasn’t established as a national holiday until Oct. 3, 1863, with President Abraham Lincoln’s famous proclamation: “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
Americans had kept thanksgiving days in various ways for almost 2½ centuries. For 17 years, Sarah Hale had petitioned five presidents to make it a unified national holiday. But it never went through until Lincoln.
We forget the context of Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation, but it is crucial.
America was suffering a devastating Civil War “unequalled [in] magnitude and severity,” Lincoln noted in the proclamation. The deadliest battle of the war, Gettysburg, had recently claimed roughly 50,000 causalities. Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed at the height of an existential crisis.
Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed not to celebrate the solving of a crisis, but to help solve the crisis.
How does expressing gratitude solve problems? It does not directly put more soldiers on the battlefield or more money in the bank. It doesn’t cause depression to vanish, or suddenly heal family division. But showing sincere, detailed gratitude to God changes something much more important: the mind and attitude.
Showing gratitude to God puts a person (and nation) on the path to having his problems fixed, no matter their magnitude or intensity. Proper gratitude produces humility, and humility is a vital prerequisite to knowing God and receiving blessings from Him.
“[T]o this man will I look,” God says in Isaiah 66:2, “even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit ….”
God cannot work with a person who is infatuated with himself. He cannot connect with a person who refuses to admit his own deficiencies. He cannot help the man who doesn’t want help. King David wrote, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.”
Gratitude plays a vital role in producing the recognition that we are but worms; tiny, temporary, insignificant, weak creatures who depend entirely on our Creator.
There is beautiful selflessness inherent in saying “Thank you,” even in saying it to other people. When we say thanks, we recognize the character and accomplishments of others, and we recognize our own needs and deficiencies, frailties and shortcomings. We admit that we need help. It is hard for godly gratitude and vanity to coexist in the same moment.
When we express gratitude to God (and even others), we recognize that we are not the only star in the universe. We recognize that there are other stars and that they too are important and have value, not just to the universe, but to our own existence.
Abraham Lincoln understood this. He saw that many citizens had become so wrapped up in America’s unprecedented “bounties” and were “prone to forget the source from which they come.” Lincoln was concerned about the spirit of lawlessness that was getting hold of his nation. He told his people to beseech God “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience ….”
Lincoln was talking to Americans in 1863. Could this brilliant orator even find the words to express the state of Americans in 2019?
Lincoln knew that a national outburst of praise and thanks to God would help renew the minds and hearts of Americans. He knew it would prompt humility and repentance, and that a humble, repentant people would be a people that God could work with.
In his proclamation, President Lincoln told his people: “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy” (emphasis added).
Today there isn’t an inkling of this sentiment in the White House, or even in most American households. But it’s part of the solution to our many shattering problems!
The reason Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation is such a majestic document is because it recognizes man’s total powerlessness before God. It takes the spotlight off the creation and puts it squarely on the Creator. Fulfilled to its ultimate potential, it generates humility—and paves the way for a person to know God.
The Bible overflows with instruction to bestow gratitude—especially on God. Psalm 100 instructs us: “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (verse 4). To the congregation in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul wrote, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
There are literally hundreds of verses declaring this same message: Praise God and be eternally thankful!
Why does God emphasize this? It isn’t because He needs thanks and praise from us to be content or happy. God wants gratitude because gratitude recognizes reality, produces humility, and enables Him to begin working to fulfill His incredible ambitions for that person. Proper gratitude benefits you more than God or the person receiving it!
Gratitude actually helps you begin to fulfill your incredible human potential!
Take some time this Thanksgiving to dwell on Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation. I also urge you to watch the following Key of David, presented by Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry. Produced in 1998, and updated in 2013, this program is more relevant today than ever.
Like Thanksgiving itself, this moving Key of David program contains the ultimate solution to America’s many serious problems. And not just America’s, but the grave problems besetting all mankind.