Almost every culture in the world has held celebrations of thanks for a plentiful harvest. The American Thanksgiving holiday began as a feast of thanksgiving in the early days of the American colonies almost four hundred years ago.
In 1620, the Pilgrims settled in what is now the state of Massachusetts. Their first winter in the New World was difficult. They had arrived too late to grow many crops, and without fresh food, half the colony died from disease. The following spring the Indians taught them how to grow corn (maize), and other crops as well. Autumn descended on them in 1621, and bountiful crops of corn, barley, beans and pumpkins were harvested. The colonists had much to be thankful for, so a feast was planned. They invited the local Indian chief and 90 Indians to join them in a celebration of Thanksgiving. The Indians brought deer to roast with the turkeys and other wild game offered by the colonists. To this first Thanksgiving, the Indians had even brought popcorn.
The U.S. Congress in 1941 established the fourth Thursday of November as the official time when Thanksgiving would be celebrated. President Roosevelt signed this bill into U.S. law on November 26th of that year, and Americans continue to this day in celebrating Thanksgiving Day. Christians must always have the spirit of thanksgiving and possessing this characteristic is not only expected, but the teachings of Holy Writ compel it.
We all have our special memories of Thanksgiving with family members, children, and grandchildren coming home to enjoy the warm embrace of loved ones. We think of the beautiful baked turkey, giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, and all the trimmings epitomizing the ideal Thanksgiving. Americans, according to surveys, reveal they consume more food and put on more calories during the Thanksgiving holiday than any other time of the year. The consumption of food is not the issue of this article; but rather the emphasis we place on this special holiday to the exclusion of those needing our help. THINKING AND THANKSGIVING should be our mantra when it comes to:
THE ATTENTION WE GIVE THE SICK AND SHUT-INS. Thinking about the shut-in, or sick person alone without a meal, and no one to care for him/her should stir a responsive chord within all of us (Mt. 25:34-40). David said, "For the needy shall not be forgotten, the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever" (Psalm 9:18). The needy, and the poor, whose expectation is from the Lord, are never forgotten. The care of those sick and shut-in restricted to their homes or a nursing home - assisted living facility needs our compassion and attention. Many of these persons were stalwart Christians, who have dedicated their lives to building up the church of the Lord. They remain valuable, worthwhile, and deserving of our time. For nine of the last ten years I have lived the life of a shut-in, and know firsthand of the unique problems this group has in managing the trials they face.
The admonition by James "To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction," includes the orphans, widows-widowers, and also the sick and shut-in. The Christian admonition to visit suggests "supply or care for those in need." Those confined to home suffer loneliness, isolation, and often neglect compelling active Christians to fill this void. Good fortune has smiled on this shut-in with a devoted wife-caregiver, attentive family, and others that have reached out to lend their support. Sadly, this is not the general rule for many shut-ins as many are forgotten. The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us; we would urge you to consider the sick and shut-in by spending a few moments of your time to give them cheer and support.
GIVE ATTENTION TO THOSE LIVING WITHOUT THE BASIC NECESSITIES OF LIFE. We have seen the news reports of those living in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Many have suffered the loss of their homes in the fraction of a few seconds. My good friend, Mark Lance, minister of the Chalmette church of Christ, Chalmette, LA (suburb of New Orleans) lost their home, all their belongings and the church building where Christians met for study and worship. Virtually all of their membership is displaced, but their strong faith and heads held high, combined with a caring brotherhood will help them through this tragedy. Katrina and other devastating storms quickly transformed the lives of thousands on the gulf coast to rubble. Many have lost all their physical possessions with the blink of an eye. Families losing their homes and material things cannot compare with the loss of a husband, wife, or child. News accounts tell us that many remain missing as countless children have vanished during this explosion of "Mother Natures" wrath.
Coming to the help of those, as described above, brings out the best in the human spirit. Seeing Christians give assistance with their checkbook, and with personal items going to those losing everything speaks volumes of their concern. The king in Proverbs 31 is making a case for the worthy woman, and states: "She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy (Proverbs 31:20). This is truly a woman of charity giving aid and comfort to the poor, unfortunate, and destitute. She knows that in every gift coming from God calls for us to give back to those in need.
We are all bountifully blessed by the Creator meaning we must respond in kind. Paul writes, "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6). This is an ancient principle going back to the earliest of time. The expression of the apostle clearly suggests, when a man sows little he must expect to reap little. Conversely, if we sow liberally we would expect to reap bountifully. Beloved, as the Thanksgiving season approaches, let us reach out to those in our communities, neighborhoods, and elsewhere to give attention to those in need of the most basic necessities of life.
GIVE ATTENTION TO THOSE SPIRITUALLY MALNOURISHED. In our area many charities including civic clubs, food banks, and TV outlets will challenge those to bring food and drop off the items at a convenient location, and those malnourished and hungry will have a sumptuous meal on Thanksgiving Day.
Giving food to the physically malnourished is a worthy goal and we commend this activity. However, giving attention to the spiritually hungry far exceeds the physical. Jesus said, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness . . ." (Mt. 5:6). Jesus uses two of the most expressive words in all the human experience, "hunger and thirst." Hunger and thirst are terms signifying great desire. It would be difficult to find two words that convey the attitude we should have in obtaining the righteousness of God. These occur daily and when discontinued for any length of time certain distress and calamity will surely come. Just imagine going days or weeks without food and drink? Peter writes, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby" (I Peter 2:1). Newborns have a natural instinct, a yearning, or longing after to sustain their lives. They know that only mother's milk can supply the nourishment that sustaining their young lives.
My experience as a gospel preacher has caused me to wonder if we had the same desire for the Word of God, as we do for a sumptuous meal at the finest restaurant. Which bothers you most, missing Bible study and worship, or missing that favorite meal? What bothers you most, missing Bible study and worship, or your favorite football game, or athletic event? What bothers you most, missing Bible study and worship, or a fishing-hunting trip? These questions put into perspective our attitude toward spiritual things.
Countless souls in our community, neighborhood, and down the street is malnourished when it comes to receiving proper spiritual food. We would not consider taking spoiled food from the garbage can, and feeding it to those never having a proper meal. Fundamentally, we must bring them the gospel in its purest form leading each soul to the "bread of life" (John 6:35, 6:48). The spiritually malnourished must learn the basics of hearing the word (Rom. 10:17; believing in Christ as Lord (John 8:24; Heb. 11:6); repenting (changing of one's heart and life) of sin (Luke. 13:3; Acts 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:9); confessing Christ as Lord (Rom. 10:10; and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Mk. 16:16).
THINKING AND THANKSGIVING go hand and glove as we look around seeing those in need, and with compassionate hearts supply to those acutely in need. These are three areas that need our rapt attention. So, as we sit down to eat that wonderful Thanksgiving meal with our loved ones, ponder those that are in need by showing our concern and thoughtfulness. We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers.
- Bob Spurlin, the "horizontal" preacher, has been bedridden with Multiple Sclerosis for a number of years, yet continues to faithfully serve his Lord through a number of avenues, most notably his writing. Bob can be contacted through his website, http://www.bobspurlin.com (©2000-2006 BOB SPURLIN).