I recently read an article that was posted on Facebook that really hit me hard. It was an article by a former soldier in the United States military and it made a very startling request, well startling to me. The soldier simply asked Americans to stop thanking our veterans when they see them out and about. I was flabbergasted (I love it when I get to use that word). Being the son of a veteran of the Vietnam War, I was almost offended. I am highly opinionated and defensive with the way we treat our military and honor those who have served and fallen defending the freedoms of this country. I am writer, however, and I owed it to this person to finish reading the article, and what I found really hit home. His request was not out of embarassment or out of disdain for the attention that he had received by being a veteran, his fear was far more founded. His fear is that thanking a veteran has become routine and has lost its meaning. He believes that we have pushed and pushed the veneration of our military to the point that it has become as workaday as saying hello or how are you doing; and you know what…he’s got a point.
I mentioned how intently protective I am of how we treat our vets mainly because I know what my dad endured on his return home from Vietnam. If you have ever had the honor of seeing two Vietnam veterans greet each other, you may hear the words, “Welcome home.” This is because our Vietnam War vets were NOT welcomed home. They were not regarded as heroes or thanked for their service; these men were called murderers and baby killers. Maybe it is because I also teach history that I am particular about my praises of our veterans, or maybe it’s a son’s pride for my dad doing what I’m not sure that I could do myself; but I am adamant about greeting and thanking our vets. If we are not truly thankful, however, if our motives and our thanks have truly become routine- what honor are we really giving them. This spawned a complete re-evaluation of the word thanksgiving for me.
In our youth sunday school class, we just completed week 2 of a sepcial 3 week series on Thanksgiving. So during this examination of true thanksgiving, I found that the Bible gives us the model for thanksgiving that is right, true, and worthy of being called thanks. In Psalms 100, there are five short verses that dictate what proper thanksgiving looks like. The Psalmist tells us:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
There it is- our model, our guide for giving thanks and it points to the right source- God the father, creator of it all. This Psalm defines what our purpose is on this planet. We were made to give God all the Praise, Honor, and Glory.
How is your thanksgiving? Is Thanksgiving merely a once a year event where we eat ourselves into a tryptophan induced coma? Has our thanks dwindeled down to a run of the mill, ordinary reflex of saying thank you? When is the last time you sought someone out to thank them without receiving a service or favor from them first? These are the serious lifestyle questions that I have asked myself recently. I know full on that my thankfulness for our vets is genuine, but is the rest of my thankfulness that intentional? It is these questions that remind me of a story. A story of true thankfulness, not just some knee jerk reaction to a singular event.
The story that I am referring to is found in Luke 17:11-19. In this chapter, Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem and passed between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered the village there He came upon 10 lepers. Now, if you are not familiar with the leper life, these men suffered from Leprosy, a disease of the skin and nerves that often caused people to lose appendages. People afflicted by this disease were not welcome to stay in the general population as it was a contagious illness. They were forced to stay on the outskirts of towns and villages. Here was Jesus, however. His reputation for healing had long since preceded Him. These men called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (verse 13). Jesus told the men to go see the priest for they were now clean. The priest was the only person who could deem the lepers clean and thus able to rejoin society. As they were moving, quickly I would guess, toward the Priest, they noticed that their skin was completely healed. Yet, as this miracle healing happened right before their eyes, as they were the direct recipients of Jesus’ healing and God’s mercy, only one stopped. Only one returned to Jesus to thank Him and praise God’s name- to boot, that one was a Samaritan. The Samaritan, the foreigner, the very group of people that Jews did not associate with, was the one who returned to offer true thanksgiving and praise of the One who healed him.
It is this type of thanks that is genuine and it is this type of thanks that we should model. This thanks was genuine because even as a foreigner who did not praise the God of the Jews typically, this man returned to offer a thanksgiving of praise. This thanks was intentional. The man was on his way to the Priest when he realized he had been healed. Now the other 9 Jews that were with him were probably happy that Jesus healed them, but their only thought was about the restoration of their place in society and not on the miracle that just occurred. The Samaritan, however, stopped, made a U turn, and then sought Jesus out. Finally, his thanks had a purpose. His purpose was the same purpose that you and I are here, to praise God.
These three elements are essential to true thanksgiving in my opinion. Our praise and our thanks should not be routine. It should not be ordinary. Our thanks should not be habit. Our thanks should be a lifestyle not a reaction. A lifestyle of thanks is one of the key elements, I believe, to truly following Christ. So, as I conclude, let me urge you to live a lifestyle of thanksgiving, not just a reactionary lifestyle that repeats menaingless words when someone does something for you. Make your thanks intentional- seek people out who need and deserve your appreciation. Make your thanks purposeful- have your thanks honor & glorify God instead of making ourselves look good. Finally, make your thanks genuine- do not fall into the idle talk where we merely repeat a word or phrase that long lost their meaning. Life a lifestyle of thanks.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach