The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving
November 26, 1789 was marked by President George Washington as the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in the United States of America. In his proclamation dated October 3 of that year he states that Thanksgiving is “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God”.
The first Thanksgiving in the U.S. is said to have been celebrated in 1621 at what became Plymouth Massachusetts. This was a time of feasting to celebrate a successful harvest. It was also at this time when the Wampanoag natives and the pilgrims began a friendship of mutual giving and protection. Both were thankful for what they had received and both were thankful for what they could give.
The Thanksgiving that the pilgrims celebrated was not the first ever such celebration though. Leviticus 7 details how God’s people celebrated the giving of thanks as connected with a sacrifice. A true Thanksgiving would be difficult to have without someone sacrificing something. All of these sacrifices that God’s people presented represented two things; A – the denial of self and B – the atoning sacrifice of Christ Himself.
Of all the holidays that we, as Americans, celebrate Thanksgiving is the most Biblically harmonious. The great apostle Paul in Hebrews 13 connects giving of thanks with helping others.
vs1 – Let brotherly love continue.
vs2 – Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
vs3 – Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
Notice first verses in this chapter Paul uses to address the fact that Christians should be reaching out to those who are in need, those who are hurting, and alone.
Let’s be honest with ourselves though, when we help someone it can be very taxing. It can be very stressful. It can even challenge your walk with God when the recipient of your help seems ungrateful and/or takes advantage of you.
Now take the time to notice the natural progression of Hebrews 13:
12 – Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered…
15 – By him let us offer sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
Paul begins with reaching out to others, connects it to a sacrifice, and then reminds us of the sacrifice Jesus offered for us with His own blood. Take note that the fruit, or evidence, of our thankfulness is by offering a sacrifice of praise to God.
If you feel that someone is not worthy of the sacrifice it takes for you to help them, let us be reminded of how unworthy we are for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Through much pain and stress were we givien the free offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
What are you thankful for this time of the year? Many of us are thankful for what we have, as well we should be, but how many of us are thankful for what we can give? God has entrusted us with the resources of planet earth and He has given us the privilege to be a part of proclaiming the Gospel by helping others.
Next time you pass someone holding as sign that says hungry, homeless, or will work for food treat them like Jesus would. Don’t convince yourself that they will use the money you may give them inappropriately and squander it. Don’t think “Well, they put themselves in this circumstance.”
At the same time do not put them in a position to be victims of your generosity either. We must be careful that we don’t make someone rely on us but rather let’s teach them to rely on Jesus.
When Jesus comes back His reward will be for those who were thankful for what they had and thankful for what they could give.
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