Last Thursday we celebrated the 154th Thanksgiving since it was made a National Holiday by President Abraham Lincoln. Although the day does have its roots back to the first recognition of Thanksgiving, the event we colored pictures of growing up, the fundamental of the holiday has always remained the same… giving thanks.
This position of gratitude is not just giving thanks in general. What often goes unsaid is that every mention of the holiday, the thanks was given to:
In Jamestown, VA in 1619 proclaimed, ” a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
In a 1782 a declaration by the Continental Congress “a day of solemn thanksgiving to God for all His mercies.”
In 1789 and 1795, George Washington states, “it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God.”
And finally, President Lincoln in 1863 with this proclamation of a day of, “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Do you see a trend? Those are just four of many instances. The picture of people being unselfish, sharing with one another, and genuinely giving thanks for the provisions they had been given. Every instance of Thanksgiving involves God’s hand of provision.
Today, families gather every fourth Thursday of November to eat a large meal that took hours and often several people to prepare, and the one thing that is primarily left out is giving thanks. The talk over dinner is not about how God has blessed their lives; it’s about what store are they going to visit first for Black Friday sales.
Disregard for Others
America has lost its appreciation for what they have through the anticipation of what they want to have, at discounted prices. Never is greed so evident than it is on Thanksgiving night. You see people’s true nature when a store only has twenty televisions and one hundred and twenty in the line for that TV, all with the mentality of: it’s my money, I earned it, and I deserve it, so I’m going to get it.
It is disheartening when greed overtakes the thankfulness we were expressing just twelve hours earlier. It’s shocking to see someone pushing another over for bath towels at a Black Friday sale. That is not an exaggeration. I was there and saw it first-hand, it was not pretty. While I’ve never seen bloodshed, three years of working at Walmart on Black Friday did teach me a valuable lesson… some things are not that important.
Our culture has become incredibly self-centered. We covet the things we do not have and envy the ones that do. These feelings grow so strong that some cross the line and take the things they feel they are entitled to. After all, why should the life circumstances, that have been forced upon them, penalize them from the things they want?
There is no moral compass anymore. It even spills over to those who do have success. Recently there was a story of three college basketball players. While visiting China as part of promoting the basketball league, they visited several local stores and felt the need to steal from a few of them.
I don’t understand what can go through a person’s mind to get them to want to steal anything. I can somewhat see a desire to take something that does not belong to them if a person is homeless or starving, but these boys were neither. Yet they still decided to disrespect; the law, the stores they stole from, the country they were visiting, the league and the team they were representing, and America as a whole. The sad part is that this is not an isolated instance.
We have lost our first love, the concern for others.
I grew up in a day when if there was some sort of hardship someone would write a song about it to create awareness of a cause. Some of you may remember Band-Aid, U.S.A. for Africa, and Farm Aid. People were active in causes to help raise money through hard work. Nowadays, we don’t petition each other, we petition the government and lay blame on them when the problems are not fixed.
Matthew West writes in his song, “I Created You,” about a person seeing problems of hunger and pain around them. They are saddened, upset, and asking God why doesn’t he do something. And God answers that he did, he created the person asking the question.
We are going to be the ones to enact change, by helping others. We cannot rely on the government to solve the personal problems this country faces. It is up to the people to act. I am not talking about revolution or anarchy. I am talking about need. I am talking about reaching into our own pockets, using our personal time, and using our voices to spur others on to helping change come about. As Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
It reminds me of a scene in Star Trek II, during a heartfelt moment between Kirk and Spock these words are spoken, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” We need to regain our sense of humanity by considering others in our words and deeds, even at the sacrifice of our own prosperity.
For the last month, we have seen news stories about those in prominent positions being accused of sexual harassment. It seems we cannot turn on the TV without hearing about a movie star or news personality being drug through the mud. Of those exposed, some have come clean, some even apologizing and appearing to get help, while others vehemently deny pointed fingers.
Since society reflects what it sees in the media, what people see the media doing becomes the norm of what is acceptable. We see the media telling us what to drink, what to wear, where to shop. If they tell us we need to drive a Lincoln, we think to achieve prominent status we need to drive a Lincoln.
So, what does it say when these men’s secret lives begin to come to light? Love for them is a forced action; they covet someone, instigate affection, and expect reciprocation. Or we see some being arrested and put on trial for the assault of a wife or girlfriend. Love for them is: do what I say or else. Not the role model we grew up with. There are no Ward Cleavers or Dr. Heathcliff Huxtables anymore. (And even Mr. Cosby is not above approach.)
Love is viewed as a light bulb. When that bulb burns out, we toss the bad bulb out and replace it with a new one. And so, it goes; if feelings change, just break up or get a divorce. We treat love as an old pair of gym socks.
We have lost our first love, an example of the permanence of love.
Love is not something that is here today and gone tomorrow. Love is permanent. There should not be any circumstance that could change love. Despite common belief, love is not a feeling. Love is a decision. We choose to give someone affection. Personal feelings have little to do with the decision to show love. Colossians 3:14 tells us, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” If love is something we put on, then how can it be an anything but a choice?
In 1 Corinthians 13, known to most as The Love Chapter, we are instructed about what love is. It is patient and kind, it is not seated in envy nor should it cause anyone to boast. It is never arrogant or rude, forcing its own way on someone. It does not become irritated or resentful with lack of reciprocation. Its truth is always celebrated. It bears through all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and it endures through all things. Most importantly, love never fails.
When love is a decision, then there is no pressure when we don’t feel love. We don’t question or doubt our decision about the one we have married. Instead of treating love as a perishable, we need to treat it as a something that is sustaining. A fire comes to mind: it can be fed. As long as you continue to feed wood into a fire, it will continue to burn. The more we feed love, the longer it will continue to burn.
Disregard for Life
A variety of public service advertisements air, demanding that you sponsor a pet. If you don’t, those animals will be euthanized. Then, seconds after that commercial ends, the news comes back and reports on a federal judge who prohibited a state law from being enacted that banned a dangerous abortion procedure. We are giving more consideration to saving soulless animals than we’re giving to a living human being. Let the dog live, kill the child. What is wrong with people? We care more for the pardoning of a Thanksgiving turkey than for finding the morals within ourselves to value human life.
You cannot turn on the news without stories of who shot who or what deranged person walked into a public place and opened fire on a group of innocent people. We blame the guns, the manufacturers, and the laws that exist, ignoring the real problem; morality. We shine a temporary light on the communities affected, mourn the losses, then move on to the next tragedy. It is a sad endless cycle. Not in the spotlight leaving an impacted area, but that it continues to happen all over the world.
We have forgotten our first love, the sacredness of life.
Unlike love, life is not a choice, though some would argue the case. One of my favorite quotes is from Ronald Reagan from the 1980 Presidential Debate, “With regard to the freedom of the individual for choice with regard to abortion, there’s one individual who’s not being considered at all. That’s the one who is being aborted. And I’ve noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.” He goes on to say that if there is any question at all about if life exists, then the answer should be yes until there is evidence to the contrary.
The respect for life goes beyond abortion; it goes beyond the tragic events that claim lives, it is about having the morals that scream that all life is sacred. It’s not in the segregated efforts of different organizations. It lies in the combination and unification of these organizations. Once we come to the realization and acceptance that all lives matter, then every single life will matter.
Treating a stranger as a brother and a friend, and not the enemy, is the mentality we need. God created each of us. According to Jeremiah, He knew us before we were born, and He has a plan for each person. If each of us has a specific plan for their life, then no one person is greater than the other. We are all on a level plain. Since we are all on a level plain, then we all should strive to succeed in what we were called to do. Most of that calling is to love one another. And loving one another gives us the desire to help your brother and friend in their efforts to succeed.
1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” It continues in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” And it all culminates in Mark 7:20-23, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” We can choose to do good, or allow the bad to corrupt us.
The solution is in Galatians 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Seeking what God desires and living a life that is pleasing to him, is what can help this world turn from the greed and selfishness that have plagued it. If we consider the good of those around us, not letting the things of this world corrupt us, then we can become united in the stand against all that is immoral.
Reagan said, in that same 1980 debate with Congressman John Anderson, that this country needed to get back to the fundamental beliefs we once had that had been abandoned. He felt that America had the hunger for a spiritual awakening, but he also said that churches were not doing what they need to do regarding the government involving themselves in the family. The church needs to take a stand.
This feeling is the same today. Once again, we need that spiritual awakening. We need to take a stand in support of the traditional values we have left behind. Until we wake up, we will continue to see the atrocities of life flourish. America has forgotten its first love, the acknowledgment of a higher power and living a life in accordance with a moral code that the forefathers knew all too well. The morality of having standards of life, liberty and a pursuit of happiness.