November 23, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

Thanksgiving Requires a Receiver

Gratitude confers many benefits, but only makes sense if there is someone to be thankful to.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, one of the favorite holidays for many Americans. As preachers and teachers are prone to remind us, it’s not merely a day for feasting and football. What is the meaning and purpose of Thanksgiving? Why is a whole day set aside for it? What good does it do?

For the latest video instruction at Prager U, Dennis Prager lays out the case for being thankful. He makes a strong case for gratitude being the best way to make a better world. Gratitude, he explains clearly and simply, makes people kind and happy. Ungratefulness, by contrast, fosters victimhood and anger. Want to be happy? Be grateful, he says.

As convincing as his argument is, he leaves out something important— perhaps the most important part of gratitude. To whom will you be thankful? As we have seen repeatedly, gratitude needs an object, otherwise it is selfishness masquerading as gratitude. The mere feeling of well-being is not gratitude. Behaving in a grateful way for personal health or happiness, or even to make a better world, misses the point. We need to face someone when saying, “Thank you.”

The object of gratitude might be a parent, teacher or friend, for specific acts of kindness enjoyed. But when feeling grateful for health, or for the beauty of nature, or for the joy of experiencing a multitude of human blessings, there’s only one qualified recipient: our Creator.

At Evolution News, David Klinghoffer encourages being thankful for the intelligent design of your eyes. Also on Prager U, Michael Medved clears up some myths about the first Thanksgiving by the Pilgrims and Indians. But actually, the first thanksgiving feasts go back to the Mosaic Law. Peace offerings or freewill offerings were the only optional sacrifices of the five in the Levitical code (Leviticus 7:11-17). They included sharing in the blessings of food by both priest and giver. Thanksgiving is a running theme throughout the Bible, ceremony or not.  In fact, one of the primary reasons for judgment on sinners is lack of thankfulness even though the evidence of God’s power is evident in creation. The whole passage of Romans 1:18-22 bears repeating, as it closely parallels our motivations here at Creation-Evolution Headlines.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

We wish all our readers a happy and sincere Thanksgiving.

Need something specific to be thankful for? This is a good time to re-read some of our earlier articles about gratitude at these links:

  • Reasons for thanksgiving in your body cells (11/23/16)
  • More to thank God for in your brain (7/05/15)
  • Let’s get [thankful for the] physical (11/25/14)
  • Thank God for nature (4/12/15)
  • Good gratitude: to science or God? (11/27/14)
  • Gratitude is good for health (11/22/12)
  • Can gratitude be studied scientifically (8/07/12)
  • The science of thanksgiving (11/24/11)

You can also search on gratitude and thanksgiving in the Search Bar.

Exercise: Find and read all the instances of these words in the Bible: thanksgiving, thankful, thanks, grateful, gratefulness, gratitude. Allow a lot of time!



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