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The Wrong Kind of Thankfulness

And so here I am after a long time of not posting anything, trying now to get someone, anyone to read what I’ve written. Maybe you’ve checked once or twice and just thought to yourself - “Ha, I knew he wouldn’t keep it up.” Well, I’m back… for now! I make no guarantees for the future.

These thoughts arose as I was preparing for a message entitled “Time to Fill Your Thank Tank” to be given November 20, 2011 at Praise Tabernacle. In the sermon, I make reference to a story Jesus told about a Pharisee and tax collector who went up to the temple to pray. Since the sermon is about thanksgiving and being thankful, the words of the Pharisee’s prayer jumped off the page at me. Here are his words so you can see for yourself:
Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector.
Luke 18:12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ (NIV1984)

I’m not sure if you saw it, but let me point out a couple of things he says in verse 11.
  • He addresses God as the object of his thankfulness - Good place to start. I’ve been saying for years that to be really thankful, it’s best when thanksgiving is directed in the appropriate direction - most appropriate is God. However, this is where the positives for this religious leader comes to an end.
  • He thanks God that he is not like other men - I’ve heard and said the expression before “there for the grace of God, go I.” There’s nothing wrong with that when there is a sense of humility and realization that God is the one who has delivered you and brought you out of your sin. But really? He thanks God that he’s not like these sinful people? This guy clearly thought he was better than everyone else around him, “even this tax collector,” he says.

Let me just go on record at this point and say, this is the wrong kind of thankfulness! The story Jesus told was to teach those in the crowd who trusted in their own righteousness that repentance and humility gets God’s attention, not being thankful at how good you think you are in your own eyes. What this man failed to see was that he was exactly like those “other men” because his heart wasn’t right with God and all the outward expressions of religion don’t change that.

His most egregious error was that of actually attaching thankfulness (a quality we are reminded at least once a year to possess) to his supposed position with God; and then to thank God, as if somehow God had something to do with him being so prideful, stuck-up and horribly deceived. He was thankful alright, but he was the wrong kind of thankful.

Let’s be thankful to God that He has delivered us from sin, but stay away from the comparisons to others because that’s the wrong kind of thankfulness.


Ok, I enjoy a good football game like the rest of the male population raised in America. While I am more of a baseball guy, I do like football. Of course, being raised in New England, I’m supposed to be a Patriots fan, but it is the one New England sports team with which I severed ties when I was a kid in favor of “The Steel Curtain.” That’s right, the Pittsburgh Steelers of the late 70’s was a thing of beauty, but I digress. My question is, what will a lot of us be doing on Thanksgiving day? Well, we will be watching football! So will we really be giving thanks? I wonder if the Pilgrims had this in mind. I know what you are thinking... “Is this guy for real? They didn’t have football in the 1600’s! Duh!” Of course, if they had been able to peer into the future and see that the New England Patriots would be playing less than 50 miles from where they landed at Plymouth Rock, they might have let out a cheer or two. Who really knows? But have we turned the spirit of the day into... well, Thanks-watching?

Then, there’s the turkey! I’m salivating already at the thought of that perfectly cooked holiday bird along with all the traditional side dishes. I’ve been known to put away quite a lot of turkey and close to a half a pan of sweet potatoes with the marshmallows on top. I can’t wait! But have we turned it into Thanks-eating?

And of course there’s the aftermath of the ginormous meal at which we have essentially exceeded our normal food intake for one sitting, but hey, after all, it’s thanksgiving. All that food leads only to one place...Thanks-napping! Our eyelids will get heavy and we will want nothing more than to lay down and sleep off some of that meal because we know that a little later, we’re going to want all the Thanks-leftovers!

What’s my point in all of this? Am I trying to get you to sit down and not enjoy some of the 21st century traditions. Not at all. Enjoy the game, but be thankful that you live in a country that has afforded you the freedom to be able to watch that game. And, be thankful that you can sit down and enjoy a wonderful meal when there are so many in the world going without. Just be thankful.

Maybe this Thanksgiving is a little difficult this year. It could be that the economy has handed you some hard times, or your Thanksgiving is clouded by grief. In spite of that, as a believer in Jesus Christ and in what He accomplished for me on the cross, I know that I have reason to be thankful though things are sometimes difficult.

Regardless of what we are going through, Paul reminded the Thessalonians believers to do this: 1Th. 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Yes, that’s right, he did say (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I might add) “in all circumstances.” You may not like what is happening to you, but it is in that circumstance that we are told to give thanks.

So in the time where some might be watching, eating, napping, struggling and even grieving, you can still give thanks in your circumstances when you turn your heart to Christ.