The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the tag “Thanksgiving”

Neither Were They Grateful

By Kuyperian Commentary Special Contributing Scholar, Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr.

It is a sure sign that we are sinners that we tend to be more concerned about what we do than what we are. That is, our guilt or peace oftentimes is the fruit of our own judgment of how often we commit a known sin, less often grounded in what we think and how we feel. I may hate my brother, but if I can keep myself from killing him, well, how bad could I be?

In Romans 1 Paul is setting about the business of explaining the universal guilt of men before God. There he answers the telling question, what about the innocent native in Africa who knows nothing of Christ by affirming that all men everywhere both know who God is, and reject that knowledge. Before we have done anything we stand guilty, if only because our eyes tell us there is a God and our hearts hate that truth.  Paul then, however, in describing the universal sinful condition of all men outside of Christ adds this condemnation- neither were they grateful.

If it is true that all men exist, were made to glorify God, our gratitude failure is not simply a failure of manners, akin to forgetting to write a thank-you card for a gift. Instead it is like adultery, like murder, like cosmic rebellion. How so? Well, a failure to be grateful is grounded in the conviction that we are due better than what we have been given. We are all born with an expectation of a certain level of comfort, a certain level of fulfillment, a certain level of pleasure. When these exceed our expectations we believe all is right with the world.  We have received our due. When they fall below our expectations, however, we grumble, we complain, we howl. We scratch our heads thinking something is wrong with the universe.

Something is wrong with the universe- us. The lost are, well, lost. They have not been changed. They do not have the Holy Spirit. They are on their own. But we complain just like them. We have the same set of expectations, and so mimic their grumbling.  We, because we are worldly, look at the world and our place in it just like the world.

Gratitude, however, isn’t the fruit of happiness, but its root. When we give thanks, when we look at the world and our place in it realistically, remembering what we are due in ourselves, what we have, and all that we have been promised in Christ, we are astonished, overwhelmed.  And therefore overjoyed.

I have with me four daughters who love me, and their Lord. I have three sons who love me, and their Lord. I have friends who love me, and their Lord. I have work that I love, that serves the Lord. I have a church where our Lord and His Word are preached.  Most important of all, I am beloved of the Father. How could I ever even begin to think “It isn’t enough”? And, when I fail, my Father forgives me, His Spirit works in me, and I get better. Saint, thanksgiving isn’t a holiday to be observed, but a lifestyle to be practiced. Give thanks. And when you are done, do it again.

(Original piece can be found here. Also visit R.C. Sproul Jr. at his new website)

Not All Turkey and Touchdowns

By Kuyperian Commentary Special Contributing Scholar, Dr. Thomas Kidd

The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony weren’t the first Europeans to settle in North America, nor were they the first permanent English colonists. But because of our annual celebration of Thanksgiving, and our hazy images of their 1621 meal with Native Americans, the Pilgrims have become the emblematic colonists in America’s national memory. Although modern Thanksgiving has become largely non-religious—focused more on food, family, and football than explicitly thanking God—the Pilgrims’ experience reveals a compelling religious aspect of our country’s roots.

Although people often refer to the Pilgrims as “Puritans,” they technically were English Separatists, Christians who had decided that the state-sponsored Anglican Church was fatally corrupt, and that they should found their own churches. (The Puritans, who would establish Massachusetts in 1630, believed in reforming the Anglican Church from within.) Establishing independent churches, however, was illegal. Under heavy persecution, some Separatists decided to move to Leiden in the Netherlands around the same time that the Virginia Company founded Jamestown in 1607.

The Netherlands offered the Separatists religious liberty, but the Pilgrims also became concerned about the negative influences of living in such a culturally diverse society. So in 1620, 102 settlers sailed to America on board the Mayflower. Their final Old World port was Plymouth, England, which supplied the name for their new settlement in what became southeastern Massachusetts.

All adult men on board the ship signed the “Mayflower Compact,” which many consider the first written constitution in American history. It is a very brief document, but it powerfully articulated the colonists’ commitment to God and government by common consent. It reads, in part:

Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation.

Documents such as the Mayflower Compact leave little doubt that the New England colonies were founded primarily for religious purposes.

The Compact noted Plymouth’s legal connection to Virginia (they shared the same charter), but their southern neighbors were less motivated by religion than were the New England colonists. Some today may exaggerate the secular nature of Virginia, however; among the first laws of that colony was a demand that the people honor God, to whom they owed their “highest and supreme duty, our greatest, and all our allegiance to him, from whom all power and authoritie is derived.” The recent news that the foundations of the oldest Protestant church in America have been discovered at the site of the Jamestown fort also reminds us of the southern colonists’ faith.

Although our records for the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth are sparse, we do know that in 1621 the Pilgrims held a three-day celebration with allied Indians, in observation of a good harvest and in gratitude for God’s help in passing through the trials of the first year of settlement (half of the settlers had died in that scourging winter). And yes, they had a “great store of wild turkeys” to eat for the festival.

The American colonies, particularly in New England, continued the tradition of holding thanksgiving days into the Revolutionary era, when the new American nation also picked up the practice. The Continental Congress and American presidents, beginning with George Washington, regularly proclaimed days of thanksgiving. In 1789, the first year of his presidency, Washington declared that the last Thursday of November would be a “day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God.”

Thanksgiving became an annual holiday in America during the Civil War, and Congress made the fourth Thursday of November an official national holiday in December 1941, shortly after America’s entry into World War II.

Thanksgiving historically was about “thanks-giving” directed to God. This is an instructive lesson, not only for better understanding our history, but also for curbing the temptation to make Thanksgiving into a holiday of over-consumption. The Pilgrims remind us that Thanksgiving is not all about turkey and touchdowns.

(Article first published at Patheos)

Post Navigation