Comparative Thanksgiving

The_First_ThanksgivingI was talking to someone who was going through a rough time recently.  They said, “It could be worse.  Think of what they are going through in the Philippines.  I have much to be thankful for.”  This is a kind of comparative thanksgiving.

It can be a way of reminding ourselves of the blessings that we have in the midst of our troubles, of seeing a different context.

It can also be a way of helping us to see and respond to the needs of others.  We can have a heart for those who are suffering.  This heart will move us to acts of love and compassion in response.  Seeing ourselves as more fortunate can move us to aid and comfort those whose needs are greater.

In one famous instance, however, comparative thanksgiving can be a cruel and selfish thing.  Remember Jesus’ words about the two men praying in the temple (you may remember this from our recent produc-tion of Godspell).  The Pharisee was comparatively thankful.  “Thank you, O God, that I am not like (read much better than) others, especially this tax collector praying over here.”

Sometimes comparative thanksgiving can even become comparative judgment.  Those “others” must be really bad to have suffered so from the hand of God.  Compassion is replaced with less savory attitudes.

Often we approach Thanksgiving as a time to count our blessings.  We are encouraged to thank God for the great and the small mercies of our lives.  These thanks are to be given without reference to the troubles we might be in, or the troubles of others.

I would encourage you this Thanksgiving to engage in some positive comparative thanksgiving.  Put your troubles into context by acknowledging the greater troubles of others.  Then let your sense of thankfulness lead to acts of love, mercy, grace, and justice on behalf of those others.

This, too, is part of Thanksgiving

Give Thanks,

Pastor Dan

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