Unfortunately, it seems that Thanksgiving has become become the starting point of a season of self-indulgence. It begins with a meal that is often characterized by an abundance of food, generous portions, and multiple servings – and then pie. Thanksgiving Day and “Black Friday” then launch a nationwide shopping spree that won’t take a break until Christmas Eve and that won’t really end until the After Christmas Sales are over. And then everyone seems to come to their senses with resolutions for a new year of healthy eating and fiscal responsibility – until next time.
While I wouldn’t endorse this mindset, there’s value in the excess of thanksgiving. Certainly, it’s not healthy the way people – myself included – over-indulge in the stereotypical holiday consumption of food and things. However, it is a mark of spiritual growth and maturity to be marked by excessive thanksgiving. Paul wrote in Colossians 2:6, 7, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
On the other hand, it’s a mark of spiritual immaturity and rebellion not to give thanks, which is how Paul describes sinful people in Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” In fact, Paul warned that a lack of thanksgiving would characterize people in the “last days” in 2 Timothy 3:1, 2, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy.”
So while the world might be known for its excessive consumption and a lack of gratitude, Christians ought to be marked by their excessive thanksgiving. As Paul wrote, we ought to be “overflowing with thankfulness.” But do we really overflow with thanksgiving? Sure, our worship services and prayers are full of songs and words of thanks to God for all he has done – from providing for our daily needs to forgiving our sins and giving us salvation through Jesus – but does thanksgiving overflow, out of our lives and out of the church?
It’s easy to over-indulge in the church, too. You can fill up on Bible studies, sermons, and all kinds of Christian books, music, and movies and thank God for all of it, just like we do at Thanksgiving. But with all that good stuff going in, does it make you sleepy, longing for a good nap, or does it energize you to share your faith with others? Since you have received Jesus as Lord, how do you continue to live in him? Are you filling up or growing up? As you grow in your faith and knowledge of Jesus, let it overflow into the rest of your life and even into the lives of the people around you. Be thankful for what God has done for you and in you, and let him keep flowing through you.