This is the month many of us set aside to contemplate our blessings…or so we say. We see social media posts about gratitude, make holiday plans with our families and enjoy an abundance of rich, decadent food.
I fear we’re choking on our wealth, empty inside from the striving to have more.
Several years ago, I spoke at a woman’s retreat in Belize. The women who attended came from poor villages—many of their houses made from nothing more than hastily constructed plywood and tarps. The fortunate had coarse plumbing. Women washed their clothes in the river and could make the largest meal I’d ever seen from nothing more than a chicken, rice and beans. After the retreat, one of them approached me with a question.
“You will soon celebrate Thanksgiving in the states, yes?
“Yes,” I answered with a smile. “Do you know much about our Thanksgiving?”
She shrugged. “Only what I see on the television. You guys eat until you are sick and then fight each other the next day to buy things you say you don’t need the day before.” Her brow wrinkled. “I don’t understand. Isn’t gluttony a sin? And why do you trample each other to buy more, more, more?”
I had no good answer for her. The truth is, many of us aren’t thankful. We say we are but live in opposition to our own words. We want the perfect turkey, all of our family gathered around. We want to get the best deals on our holiday shopping…most of them things we don’t need. We spend astronomical amounts on decorating our homes to look like the cover of Southern Living and then wonder how long it will take to pay off the credit card. We run and exhaust ourselves at the pursuit of perfection and are left feeling emptier than when we began.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bashing Black Friday, or enjoying a well-cooked meal. But are we truly thankful? Would we be just as happy and content if our meal was a peanut butter sandwich? What would happen if we didn’t purchase the item that is discounted 50% off at four o’clock on Friday morning? Would it ruin our attitude and our day?
Thanksgiving and greed cannot co-exist. “You can be sure no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” (Ephesians 5:3)
Philippians 4:13 is a beautiful reminder of the attitude we should all maintain. Many believe this verse to be an empowering statement about God’s strength to help us achieve the impossible. Not so. Back up a bit and you’ll see what Paul meant by ‘I can do all things…’.
“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)
It’s all about contentment. We pray for God to take us out of a situation so we can be content. But He is not so much concerned with taking us out of our current circumstances as He is with molding us into the image of His Son through our circumstances. And if a person isn’t content in one circumstance, it’s a guarantee they won’t be content in any other situation. It’s all about the heart.
I think this month I’ll concentrate less on the standard thanksgiving posts and seek contentment. Spend more time thinking about what Jesus has done than about my to-do lists.
Sounds like a good way to live all the time…not just during November.