“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways” (Psalm 128:1)
Back in high-school, I worked part-time at a restaurant. One of my jobs at the end of the night was to take inventory. I was responsible to determine what was left in the freezer. I would check off a stock list so that my manager knew how much food to order for the next day. There was no way we could keep track of how much there was left in stock without going through inventory at closing time.
Have we taken inventory lately? Thanksgiving Day is high time to take stock. It is sad to say but we know it is true: days on end go by without us even paying a second thought to our giving and forgiving God. Saying “thank you” to the Lord sometimes means that we just have to sit down and tell ourselves we should not forget something so important as our Breadwinner’s blessings.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of work? Stress and sweat, fear and frustration, thorns and thistles may be some of the first words out of our mouths. “It is going to make an old man out of me.” Maybe we get tired just thinking about it.
Creation under the curse of sin does not hand its harvest over to us on a silver platter. It takes energy and effort to put food on the table and pay the bills. But thank the Lord that our work is not a total waste of time. It is not an exercise in futility.
All who fear the Lord are happy because, “you will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours” (Psalm 128:2).
The Lord Jesus makes your hard work productive. His grace is the reverse of the curse. It is never a matter of “God helps those who help themselves.” Your harvest this year is a pure gift from our open-hearted and open-handed God. You do not have to be a farmer to have a happy thanksgiving. Faith says and sings, “we have got it made even though we may not be millionaires.” Looking over the last year with our stock list in hand, we gratefully check off the fact that the bills were paid, needs were met, broken bones were healed, mouths were fed, prayers were answered, and there are even leftovers. The Lord gives us every reason to rejoice.
Our mothers taught us that it is impolite to refuse a gift. In fact, it is downright rude. Nowadays we think we are being nice because we do not want to put anybody out. What may be closer to the truth is that we do not like to say “Thank you.” To say so would be to humble ourselves and admit that we are better off because of someone’s generosity. Are we not the recipients of God’s great generosity? Signs of prosperity are everywhere. North America is a land of plenty. Our storehouses are bursting. So our duty and delight to give thanks must shine in all we do every day of the year.
God has made us happy for good housekeeping, too. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table” (Psalm 128:3). Do vines and olive trees– ring a bell? Here is the produce of the promised land. You can really celebrate if you have vines and olives. God’s gift of a Christian marriage and family is a little piece of Paradise regained. Home land security is the fruit of a wife’s hands. Children and grandchildren are the icing on the cake filling family reunions with love and laughter.
Part of passing the baton of faith on to the next generation means that families must not just be religious; they must be joyful in Jesus Christ. “Rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household” (Deuteronomy 26:11). A home without the happiness of holiness will drive children away from the Lord Jesus. Parents full of God’s joy make everything their children do more effective. Nobody is perfect. There will be times when we complain more than we count our blessings. But we should be in the business of complimenting the home team more than we criticize it.
Take the time to play the “I’m thankful” game with your children and grandchildren. In this game, you describe something you are thankful for and your children or grandchildren try to guess what it is you are thinking of. Try this one: I am thankful for the place we go on Sunday and the people we see. What am I thankful for? I am thankful for Church! Everybody is a winner playing that game. Nobody wins when we play the grumbling game.
By in large, family life in America is a spiritual wasteland. A family flourishing under the Lord’s good housekeeping is an oasis of grace that lets others taste His living water. And with God’s blessing, the gifts just keep on coming from one generation to the next. What goes around comes around: “children’s children are a crown to the aged and parents are the pride of their children” (Proverbs 17:6).
Thankfully, we are not the only ones singing this happy song. Jesus Christ takes lead vocals as our breadwinner and homemaker. Here is our hope that defeats despair. All year around, not just on Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks to God for the best blessing of all: Jesus Christ, our harvester and wage-earner. Christ is the One, above all, who feared the Lord and walked in His Father’s ways so that we may have abundant life that never ends. He paid dearly for that abundant life He gives to us. The wage with which He earned it was His death. The gift we received was life. Jesus did it the old fashioned way: He earned it. It was hard work. He put in a lot of long days burning both ends of the night. He earned our daily bread by His blood, sweat, and tears. And the Father rewarded His Son’s hard work with a great harvest. He brings many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10-13). The fruit of Jesus’ suffering is sons and daughters who will grow up and produce a happy thanksgiving.
If we are not finding our happiness and holiness in Jesus, even a turkey dinner with all the trimmings will leave a bad aftertaste. But if we trust in the doing and dying of Jesus Christ alone, we can be sure that God receives us and invites us to celebrate with guilt-free gladness. We certainly do not deserve a good harvest and faith-filled family, let alone the hope of heaven.
In Christ, it is all good and it is all right – dedicated by the word of God and prayer. So enjoy! Savor the sweetness of your Breadwinner’s blessings with family and friends. Share some of the wealth God earned for you and some of the food He puts on your table. What a winsome Christian witness thanksgiving can be in our social circles. Failing friendships, broken families, gloomy marriages undermine the credibility of our Christianity. Our neighborhoods would change for the better when Bible-believing Christians were known not, first of all, for their political talking points, but for a faith that seems too happy to be true.
Let us grab our check lists and take inventory again this Thanksgiving Day so that we may say and mean what Paul said and meant, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift. (II Corinthians 9:15)!
Rev. Kevin Hossink is the pastor of the Hudson Valley United Reformed Church in Middletown, New York.