Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful, not Greedy

As I begin this Thanksgiving Day, I want to stop and reflect on the many reasons I have to be thankful.
  • For my wonderful wife, an Eshet Chayil (see Rachel Held Evans' blog if you don't know what that means!), whose talents go far beyond what most people recognize. We've enjoyed a long and memorable journey together and I hope will have many, many more ahead!
  • For my daughter, who continues to develop her unique personality and to grow in maturity with each passing year. The time is coming all-too-quickly when she will launch into the world on her own, but she will always be my precious girl.
  • For my son, who entered the challenging teen years this year. He's amazingly smart and even as a teenager still at times shows that tenderness of heart that leads him to wrap his father in a hug or cuddle up to his mother.
  • For my parents. I am so thankful that we have the opportunity to live close to them and enjoy lots of time together during this period of our lives. I'm thankful that they continue to enjoy good health in their retirement years and have the time and energy to be actively engaged with us.
  • For the other members of my family, both near and far. It's nice to have a family that you enjoy getting together with, even if we don't do it as often as we'd like.
  • For faithful and dear friends, both near and far. I'm particularly grateful for the friends I've had the privilege of getting to know all over the world, who have broadened my perspective and enriched my life in so many ways. And for new friends who continue to stretch me and keep me growing, especially the many women of valor I know both in person and virtually.
  • For the ability to sit here in my comfortable home and write this on my computer to share with all of you.
  • For the fact that my refrigerator has food and my cupboards are far from bare.
  • That I can open the faucet and have fresh, clean, drinkable water arrive instantly.
  • For my own health and for the great doctors I've met this year who have helped me with various health issues.

I could add many more items to the list because God has provided for me and my family in so many ways. I appreciate that my country has chosen to set aside a day to stop and give thanks each year. That's a very healthy and rather unusual practice. Of course we don't want to limit our thankfulness to a single day, but to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving each month and each day, because the very reasons I just listed for giving thanks continue throughout the year, if I choose to remember them.

It is good to give thanks.

Even as I give thanks this year though, my heart grieves. I grieve because the very culture that chooses to focus today on giving thanks, will then immediately turn around and engage in an orgy of consumption and greed that should shame all of us. Black Friday is bad enough, but now we see the shopping frenzy pushed back into Thanksgiving day itself. I am, frankly, appalled.

But I'm not surprised, because the real god of America is consumption. We pause briefly to give thanks but our whole society is oriented toward getting more stuff. Our economy depends on it. As much as most of us would adamantly deny it, we are greedy people. The stores play on that. We could stop the creep of consumerism into Thanksgiving day by simply choosing en masse to not shop today (and for that matter on Black Friday as well). It's like the old question, “What if they threw a war and no one came?” – What if they threw a big sale and no one shopped? Unfortunately I seriously doubt that will be the case. We're too addicted to getting the next great deal. Does God weep over our behaviour?

Interestingly enough, in all the sermons I heard and articles I read during the recent election on what it means to be a “biblical voter,” not once did I hear someone talk about issues of greed and consumerism. Are these not issues of righteousness as well? Surely they are, but they hit too close to home and to take them seriously would mean we actually have to change our lifestyles. It's far easier to post a statement on Facebook decrying the creep of greed into Thanksgiving day than to choose a lifestyle that rejects it altogether. As I write this I recognize that my finger points back at myself. Although I won't be out this evening or tomorrow engaging in the shopping frenzy, I could choose to buy less and be content with what I have as well. It doesn't mean never buying anything or refusing to engage in the economy, but it does mean changing my attitude, shopping less often and more wisely and turning away from greed.

So on this Thanksgiving day I want to look around me and give thanks for all that I have and not stray into thinking about what I wish I had but don't. If I'm going to wish for anything, may it be that the millions and millions of people in this world who don't enjoy some of the basic luxuries I have (such as clean water and daily food) would have these things. That's a goal worth working toward - are there any stores offering a special on that today?

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