This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it! In the name of Jesus, the most important gift to be thankful for, dear friends in Christ, being thankful is a good thing. December 7, 2001, just before my 17th birthday, I can’t remember being more thankful in my life up until that day. On that day I made the biggest purchase of my life up to that point. I had worked long and hard and saved and saved so I could get it. On that day I bought my first car, a pick up truck, a 1995 Dodge Dakota slt with the off-road package and only 195,000 miles on it. It was great. I remember driving it home and parking it in my parents garage and just spending hours looking it over. I was very thankful. But then a few months down the road I replaced a thermostat, a water pump, a radiator, a fuel pump, a catalytic convertor, but hey it was still my truck. But after a couple years, the tie rod ends were bad, the ball joints were bad, the suspension was bad, and, the rust started settling it, and no matter what I tried I couldn’t get rid of that rust! So about 3 and half years after I bought it, I traded it in for something else. What happened to that thing that was so, so, precious, that I dreamt about, and I was so, so thankful for? That happens to us, doesn’t it? We can be so thankful at one point, so thankful for something in our life, but then the problems come, the disappointments come, and our entire attitude can change.
The word of God we’re meditating on this Thanksgiving morning is from James chapter 5. James, who was likely the half-brother of the Lord himself, wrote to early Christians who were in a situation that would have made it difficult for them to be thankful. Yes, they knew the Lord, yes, they knew they were heading to heaven, but the meantime was difficult. Particularly because some of them were being mistreated by some wealthy unbelieving people. Apparently, these wealthy unbelievers would deny their Christian workers their honest pay and live in luxury while others struggled for the basic necessities of life and as wealth often does, it gave them power, so they could win their case in court and even have innocent people executed. So, James has some sharp words for these unbelieving rich people: (read 1st part)
Now, remember James is speaking about unbelieving rich people. People who are unbelievers even though they are rich are ripe for God’s judgment. In selfishness they have fattened themselves with earthly stuff like cows who continue to eat even on the day they are slaughtered. And yet it’s also important for us to remember that it isn’t a sin for a Christian to be rich, likewise it is not a virtue to be poor. In His wisdom God has determined to give people unequal amounts of wealth and goods. Some have more, some have less, that’s just the way it is. And we often have our own conceptions about who is rich and who isn’t. Perhaps we think someone with millions or billions of dollars is rich. Yet, someone from the jungle of Africa would look at every person here and say, “You are all incredibly, extraordinarily rich!”
And there are temptations for both. James’ point in speaking such strong words against these unbelieving rich people was also a warning those Christians who are rich. Literally, the end of verse 5 says, “You have fattened your hearts.” That’s where the problem is. The temptation for the rich is to trust in their wealth, to find their security in life in their riches, to treasure the gifts and forget about the Giver. And as James points out, and as I found out with my treasured truck, earthly stuff has a way of falling apart, of rusting, corroding, becoming moth-eaten and in the end all of this earthly stuff is just food for the flames on the Last Day.
And yet there are just as many temptations for the poor person too, just like there were temptations for me when my treasured truck started having all kinds of problems. I’m sure some of the Christians to whom James wrote were envying the riches, the wealth, the earthly stuff of their unbelieving oppressors. “If only I had money, I would do all this good stuff.” “If only I had money, then I could really show them who’s boss.” Or there’s the temptation to complain or grumble when things aren’t working out the way we want. So, James also wrote to encourage the believers: (read 2nd part)
So what does God tell us today about being thankful this thanksgiving day? How can we remain thankful whether we have more than enough to know what to do with or we’re barely scraping by? How can we remain thankful whether we just bought a new car or are car is having problem after problem? How can we remain thankful whether everything is going well or we’re experiencing hardship and difficulty?
The Lord puts all of our stuff into its proper perspective. Yes, He’s given us stuff to enjoy here on this earth, but one day all the stuff we own will perish in the flames when Jesus returns on the Last Day. So, we don’t get lost in it. The be all and end all of our existence isn’t in stuff. We don’t complain or grumble when we miss that black Friday special, we aren’t envious or greedy because someone else has more stuff than we have, we don’t gripe or grumble when life isn’t easy, God is in control and Jesus will one day return.
Secondly, we realize we have everything to be thankful for this Thanksgiving day and always. Whether we have a lot or a little, whether life is easy or life is difficult, whether someone is mistreating us or not, whether our car is breaking down or not. Why? Because “the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. In His compassion and mercy he rescued you from sin with his blood on the cross and because of that you are eternally rich. Think on that this Thanksgiving day and you’ll see you have every reason to keep thanking the Lord again and again and again no matter what! Amen.