Are We Still Giving Thanks?

Yesterday was Thanksgiving… today is Black Friday. The difference is pretty obvious. For the Christian, it’s helpful to remember that we are called to live with an attitude of thankfulness everyday.

So what are you focused on today? Here are a few questions to consider today:

  • Are you focused on how you’ve been blessed; or are you focused on what you don’t have?
  • Are you shopping in order to joyfully give to others; or in order to simply to buy obligatory gifts for people at the lowest possible price?
  • Are you treating other shoppers in a way that reflects a thankful, joyful heart; or do you see them as competitors who are trying to take your stuff?

Shopping on Black Friday doesn’t make you unthankful. But why you shop and how you shop matters. Be a thankful shopper today.

Thanks-giving or Thanks-buying?

How many people will be spending their Thanksgiving day writing up a list of things to buy on Black Friday? How many people will be spending their Thanksgiving day writing up their own Christmas list, carefully mulling over everything they want to get and then ranking them in order by what they want the most? Honestly, probably not too many are literally doing those things… but as Christmas approaches, we increasingly turn our minds into a running catalogue of things to buy for ourselves and for others.

Is the irony of Black Friday falling the day after Thanksgiving lost on you?

I know a lot of stores are advertising that their Black Friday sales are starting on Thursday night this year. Please, I beg of you, don’t let Thanksgiving become another shopping day. What’s it saying about us that even Thanksgiving is turning into a day to buy buy buy.

I understand that for many people, Black Friday is about buying for other people (not about getting) and getting a good deal (hey, I’m all for saving a few bucks), but I’m concerned that it’s doing something much more costly to us. I’m concerned that we are so driven by the stuff, that even the givers among us are becoming more materialistic – just in a counter-intuitive way. Instead of focusing on what they’re getting, they’re so focused on what they’re giving that it overshadows being thankful and it overshadows the generosity of God, who gave us the very first and best Christmas present of all.

In case you need a reminder, here’s a short excerpt from a post I wrote a few years ago entitled “Why We Give Gifts at Christmas“:

As we reflect on the sacrifice that God the Son made in being born as a baby boy, remember that the sacrifice was made out of love. God doesn’t want anyone to remain in their sins, that’s why Jesus was born to die on the cross so that we could be forgiven by repentance and faith in Christ. The verse above (1 John 4:9-11) also gives us a hint as to what the life of repentance and faith should look like: “Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

We give gifts on Christmas as a reminder of the gift that God gave us through Jesus Christ. Don’t give gifts this year simply out of social obligation… give them out of joy and thankfulness for what you have received from God.

LWAYG: Finishing Strong – Cain & Abel Revisited

 

When it comes to the story of Cain & Abel, there’s always been a part of me that felt bad for Cain and really identified with him.  Why was God so picky?  Does God not like vegetables either?  Or is something else going on here?  When we look at Genesis 4:1-16 and read the story, we find God saying this to Cain:

“Why are you so angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

In Junior High Youth Group I read the story I had students act the story out while I read.  One of our guys, Joe, played the part of Cain, and I think he did a great job capturing the role: when I read about Cain and Abel presenting their offerings Joe said something like this, “You showoff, just throw some stuff on the altar and you’ll be fine!”  I think that exactly what Cain’s attitude was like.

Cain lived for himself.  He did not take God’s warning seriously.  Instead of obeying God, he murdered his brother and was banished because he was so consumed by bitterness and hatred.

It’s obvious to say “Cain did NOT finish strong,” but it’s far more difficult to admit that we are so often guilty of the same bitterness and hatred that led Cain to crash and burn.  We need to be honest enough to ask ourselves some tough questions:

  • Do I really put God first, Others second, and Myself third? Practice J.O.Y. = Jesus, Others, You!
  • When was the last time I sacrificed what I wanted so I could bless someone else?
  • How do I respond when I don’t get my way?
  • Do I treat my faith as casually as Cain treated his offering, thinking “This is just fine… God’s not too picky!”

If you want to finish strong then put Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself third.