Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
Our nation has prospered greatly from advancements in technology and associated economic expansion. The baby-boomers, in particular, have benefited from the largest transfer of wealth in the history of civilization. Even those who would be classified as living in poverty receive more subsidized food and health benefits than 90% of the world’s population. This observation by no means is intended to minimize the Vicious Cycle of Poverty that blights our nation, but simply to point out that most of us in this country—whether rich or poor—fair far better than the majority of people across the globe. Yet, I see (myself included) much discontent here in the USA. We want more, and that desire for more robs us of joy.
It’s ironic that the day after Thanksgiving (and even the night of Thanksgiving) is all about buying more. It’s what I call a “Vicious Cycle of Property.” The more we buy, the more we own, the more we are discontent. Conversely, however, the more we invest in relationships, the more we are enriched, the more we are content. We see this play out in more obvious ways in under-resourced nations. During my missions travels to impoverished regions of Cuba and the Dominion Republic, I have witnessed genuine and enthusiastic expressions of joy and gratitude among those who know Christ than what I typically see of Christians (including myself) in our country. Why? Because they know they need a Savior and each other. Otherwise, the weight of their dire circumstances would crush them. They find unadulterated joy in Christ-centered fellowship, whether it be Sunday morning worship or Friday night dominoes. Artful conversation fosters an attitude of gratitude that sustains them. And hospitality is at the core of their cultural values. Giving the best from their meager means, they would treat us like royalty. It reminds me of a story from the Gospel of Luke where ten lepers cry out to Jesus from a distance and ask for his pity on them. Jesus then tells them to go show themselves to the priests (as was required by Mosaic law when one had a skin disease that now appears to be healed). Here’s the text to the remainder of Luke’s account:
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:15-19
It’s ironic that only the foreigner returned to give thanks. A Samaritan was considered a stepchild of the Jewish nation. A “good Jew” would go out of his way to avoid traveling through Samaria because they were a lesser people tainted by blended marriages with pagans from other cultures. The other nine lepers who were apparently from Judea took for granted their healing—even though they too were outcasts from society. (Mosaic law required a leper to remain isolated from those who are clean.) While all ten were healed, only the Samaritan received something better: a relationship with Jesus Christ that brings joy and contentment—truly the best reason to give thanks. So as we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, let’s take time to reflect on how blessed we are to be in fellowship with the family of God and to give thanks to Jesus Christ who makes it all possible. Amen.