Giving Thanks in America

FlagYesterday at Immanuel we talked about the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. We talked about wholeness in Christ. We talked about true faith. We talked about genuine worship. We also talked about the ugliness of ingratitude. Of the ten men who were healed by Jesus, only one man (a Samaritan) returned to give thanks. As I prepared to preach on this passage, I kept thinking about our culture and our tendency to be ungrateful. For some reason, we are not very good at giving thanks. For one thing, we rarely do it. And when we do give thanks, we sure do it in strange ways. Consider these observations:

  • People find themselves in a crisis situation. They suddenly get very spiritual and very religious. Maybe they even begin bartering and bargaining with God. Eventually, the crisis is resolved, and these same people are quick to forget God.
  • Other people live a life that is relatively crisis free. Sure, everyone has their moments, but these people seem to have everything going their way. Work is ok. Money is ok. Health is ok. Family is ok. And yet, these folks rarely give thanks.
  • An entire society (ours) decides to create a national holiday to giving thanks. Whatever the original intent, you have to admit that Thanksgiving is a day that centers on us, not God. It’s about our favorite sport, football. It’s about our favorite food, you know the menu. And it’s about our favorite activity, spending money (Black Friday has moved to Thursday).
  • This same society realizes that one day of giving thanks is insufficient, especially when that one day centers on us. So, we take an entire month to give thanks. But strangely, we’re not content to simply give thanks in the time we spend with God. Instead, we post our thankfulness on social media so we can accumulate “likes” and “re-tweets.”
  • An entire segment of the greeting card industry focuses on “thank you” cards. To be clear, I’m glad my mom trained me to write thank you cards. And like everyone else I appreciate receiving thank you cards. However, I have to admit that almost all the thank you cards I’ve sent or received are about money or “things.” I bet the same is true for you. I make this observation simply to say this: the things we give thanks for are the things we value: money and stuff.

I think our culture has an issue when it comes to giving thanks. When we do give thanks, we often do it in strange ways and for the wrong things. I know gratitude doesn’t come naturally for me, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m part of the problem. Before a problem can be solved, it must be identified. Hence, this post. Later this week I’ll be posting a few thoughts from Scripture about how we can be truly thankful people.

Originally published October 5, 2015 on