I know that Thanksgiving was this past Thursday but it is still Thanksgiving weekend. And since I was not here last week, let me share some Thanksgiving thoughts with you this morning.
The website Mommydearest.com listed 12 things for which children said they were thankful:
1. “I am thankful for food because I am always hungry.” —Harrison, age 5
2. “My Legos!” —Max, age 3
3. “I’m thankful for my mom because I love her. And my Dad and my whole family.” —Lila, age 3
4. “Uh…the sun outside!” —Lulu, age 2
5. “My new show PJ Masks because I like the song!” —Allie, age 4
6. “Doing a piggy back ride on Daddy.” —Harlow, age 4
7. “Bananas!” —Brandt, age 4
8. “My mom’s pumpkin pie. She makes it the best.” —Pearce, age 8
9. “I am thankful to my mommy for letting me play iPad two times a day on the weekends” —River, age 7
10. “Rainbows.” —Hudson, age 4
11. “I am thankful for my mom, my brothers, my cats and Minecraft.” —Rylan, age 6
12. “I am thankful for mommy bringing me to her Playdates.” —Cortland, age 3
I am sure that you could share things for which your children have been thankful! Children have a fresh and delightful perspective on life. They could teach us Adults much if we would just take time to listen!
We are admonished in the scriptures to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16).
And in Psalm 100 verse 4 we are told to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”
In Luke 17: 11-19 we are told of an encounter Jesus had with 10 Lepers. He instructed them to go to the local priest. And while they were on the way, they were healed of their leprosy. But only one of them, a Samaritan, came back to express his Thankfulness to Jesus.
And Jesus was astounded that the others failed to express their thanks. This account reminds us of how important it is that we take time to give God Thanks for His grace and mercy every day!
What are some things for which you are thankful to God this morning? Let’s hear from you for a few moments…
(Some suggestions: Our families, our health, our homes, our country, our church, Jesus Christ, salvation, His provisions for us, our home prepared for us in heaven…”)
But then there is this passage in Luke 18 that tells of the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone use this passage for a Thanksgiving message. It raises some important questions in my mind as I reflect upon it. Let’s see what God wants to say to us from this passage this morning.
I. THE MOTIVES FOR OUR THANKSGIVING
a. Jesus introduced this parable with the words recorded in Luke 18:9—“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else.”
Have you ever been guilty of looking down on someone else because you thought you were better than them? I think of various scenarios: Have you ever heard from the olden days that “The only good Injun is a dead Injun!”? Or the view in history that slaves were merely pieces of property and had no rights of their own? And in times of war people were conditioned to think of their enemies as being less than human, justifying in their minds the necessity of killing. And I think of derogatory names we have given to people of other races and nationalities. And then there is the tendency to look down on those who live in poverty—I struggle with how to view the panhandlers I see at various intersections in Springfield! Just because we happen to be born and raised in the USA and have the luxuries of Middle Class America, does that mean that we are inherently better than anyone else? Could it be that Jesus was telling this parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-collector for our benefit?
i. We are to be thankful, but could it be that we are sometimes thankful for the wrong reasons? The Pharisee was thankful that he was so religious. And he was thankful that he wasn’t like others who were sinners—and especially that he wasn’t like the Tax-collector. Now I have to tell you, I am thankful that I am not homeless, that I am not a drug addict or a drunkard, that I am not a thief or in any other kind of sinful lifestyle. But if that thankfulness is accompanied by contempt towards those who are any of those things, then this parable tells me that God is not pleased with my thankfulness.
Are you familiar with the statement, “There go I but for the grace of God”? Someone has said this quote “actually came from a man called John Bradford and this is his story. On seeing several criminals being led into the scaffold in the 16th Century, English Protestant martyr John Bradford remarked, ‘there but for the grace of God’ goes John Bradford.” His words without his name are still very common ones today for expressing one’s blessings compared to the faith of another. John Bradford was often referred to as ‘Holy Bradford’, not out of any disrespect but out of the respect for his dedication to God. In 1550, during the reign of Edward VI of England, he was ordained as a priest by Bishop Nicholas Ridley to serve as a roving chaplain. Following Edward the VI”s early death in 1553, the Catholic Mary Tudor ascended to the throne. In the first month of her reign, Bradford, who had become somewhat well-known for his devotion to the Church of England, was arrested and imprisoned on a trivial charge of trying to stir up a mob. Confined to the tower of London, he would never be a freeman again. During his time in prison, he continued to write religious works and preached to all who would listen. At one point, he was put in a cell with three other reformers— Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Bishop Nicholas Ridley (the same bishop who had ordained him) and Hugh Latimer. Their time was spent in careful study of the New Testament. All four were to become martyrs. At some time during his imprisonment, he witnessed a group of prisoners being led to their execution and remarked, “There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford,” the phrase for which he is best remembered and which has survived him—“There but by the grace of God go I.” But on January 31, 1555, John Bradford was tried and condemned to death with all the others, and on either the 30th or 15th of July, he was brought to Newgate Prison to be burned at the stake. Though scheduled for four o’clock in the morning, the burning was delayed due to the large crowd that had gathered. He was chained to the stake at Smithfield with a young man John Leaf. Before the fire was lit, he begged forgiveness of any he had wronged, and offered forgiveness to those who have wronged him. He subsequently turned to his fellowman and said, “Be of good comfort brother, for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night.” A writer during his period recorded that he endured the flame “as fresh gale of wind on a hot summer’s day, confirming by his death the truth of that doctrine he had so diligently and powerfully preached during his life.”
b. So goes the story of the origin of this quote. I’m personally am not sure if it really originated with John Bradford or not since it is so closely inferred from God’s Word, but it certainly reminds us of how God has blessed us in our circumstances.
c. Think with me for a few minutes: What if you had been born in Africa instead of America? What if you had been born with a different color skin? What if you had been born to parents who were drug addicts? What if you were born with a medical condition that could not be cured? There are a lot of “what ifs” that remind us that there are many things about our lives that we didn’t choose. Under different circumstances how would I have turned out? Suddenly, “There go I but for the grace of God” really makes sense.”
d. I read the Ann Landers Column almost every day. I did it when I was just a teen ager in the Arkansas Gazette and now I read it in the Springfield Leader. This week there was a reprint of a prayer by the original Ann Landers by her daughter who now does the column. It was a Thanksgiving Prayer that I think give perspective to how we give thanks: O Heavenly Father: We thank you for food and remember the hungry.We thank you for health and remember the sick.We thank you for friends and remember the friendless.We thank you for freedom and remember the enslaved.May these remembrances stir us to service, that Thy gifts to us may be used for others.Amen.
II. THE TRUE FOUNDATION FOR OUR THANKSGIVING
a. The Tax-Collector in this parable is a sharp contrast to the Pharisee. In their day the Pharisee was considered to the Holy Man. But the Tax-collector was thought to be worse than a murderer. The Tax-collector was an agent of the Foreign Government of Rome that dominated Israel. A Jewish man who took the role of a tax-collector was considered to be a traitor to his people. Such a person was the lowest of low in their minds.
b. But this tax-collector came to the temple and prayed a very simple prayer: “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” And God honored his prayer. The Tax-collector made no judgment on the Pharisee. He made no defense for his actions. He bowed before our Holy God and acknowledged from his heart his own unworthiness. He didn’t plead for justice because he knew he was guilty. Instead he threw himself upon God’s mercy with a truly broken heart.
c. In our thankfulness to God, let’s not try to be something we are not. Let’s not compare ourselves to others. Let’s simply acknowledge that we are undeserving and let’s place ourselves in the hands of God who is loving and merciful, not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance (see 2 Peter 3: 9).
I know people who are so focused on others that they fail to see themselves as they really are. They find fault in everyone and in everything. They make themselves miserable by looking at the negatives in others.
One of my favorite verses in is found in 1 Peter 4:8 – “8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
And Philippians 4:8 gives us a true Thanksgiving Perspective: “ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
I admonish you this Thanksgiving weekend to truly examine the focus of your Thanksgiving—Is it from a humble heart that realizes our dependence upon God? Or is it from a self-righteous perspective that condemns others who are different from us or who do not know our God as we do?
Let us bow in prayer this morning and give thanks to God for His mercy and grace and for his provisions in this life and in the world to come. And let’s give thanks for the privilege we have of being His witnesses to a world that so desperately needs Him!