I love the family times, the meal times, the kick-off-the-holiday-season times that usually surround Thanksgiving Day. But every year as the holiday approaches, I’m tempted to wonder if we should change its name. Considering how most Americans actually celebrate, maybe we should call it Have a Crowd for Dinner Day or Shop Early for Big Savings Day or Watch Some Football Day.
Don’t misunderstand. I don’t mean to be a grump. As I said, I’m grateful to have the day off and to spend it with people close to me. But I am a bit chagrined when the day has come and gone and I haven’t found any meaningful way actually to say thanks to God for the abundance he has showered on me.
This reminds me of the familiar story of the 10 lepers Jesus healed (Luke 17:11-19). When I think about why nine of them failed to run back and thank Jesus for his miracle, I reconsider why my own gratitude is sometimes slow or missing.
And I wonder if the nine healed lepers and I have one thing in common: All that God has provided is overwhelming. He’s done so much, in fact, that it’s sometimes difficult to fully grasp it long enough to truly thank him for it.
Is it possible the nine who didn’t return were too focused on themselves and their own good fortune to pause and acknowledge where it came from?
Leprosy was a worse disease than most of us can imagine. It robbed a person of his eyes, his nose, his hair, his hands. Lepers huddled together, forsaken and feared and despised by all the rest of society. Imagine being freed of such a curse!
Imagine what these lepers did after they left Jesus. Imagine their joy over their new wholeness. Imagine the plans they had for what their new health would allow. Imagine how eager they would be to show themselves to their wives, their children, their parents.
It wasn’t that they didn’t recognize their new condition. They were thrilled with their new condition!
But perhaps they did something similar to what many Americans do at Thanksgiving. They celebrated their good fortune without taking time to thank God for it.
It’s easy to take our abundant blessings for granted. It’s easy to forget that even the poor in our society have a higher income than most of the world. It’s easy to enjoy our everyday blessings—running water, working plumbing, dependable electricity, a grocery store on every corner and a car to visit it—without acknowledging not only that we’re blessed, but that God, “the Father of the heavenly lights” has given us these along with “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17).
As I anticipate Thanksgiving Day this year, that’s an error I’ll work not to repeat.
But meanwhile, my guess about the ungrateful nine may not be the best explanation for their behavior. I plan to offer another possibility in this space next week.