I’ve concluded that at Thanksgiving, many are thankful only if they’re full of turkey from a scrumptious holiday dinner. When I was young, we lived and worked on a farm so we always had plenty of food.  But our Thanksgiving table wasn’t overflowing, like others. Our mother always made sure everyone had plenty.  Since there were five in the family, that’s how much she cooked.  She didn’t waste food so she didn’t fix anything we wouldn’t eat.

For some reason people tie Thanksgiving to a turkey. With many, “no turkey” equals “no Thanksgiving”.  When we first bought the farm, a flock of turkeys came with it, we thought we were going to have another source of food - turkey meat and eggs.  On our first Thanksgiving with the turkeys, our mother killed, prepared, and cooked a turkey and dressing to go with it.  We had already discovered we didn’t like turkey eggs. Now discovered that we didn’t like turkey meat. We liked the dressing, but didn’t want to put up with the turkey to have the dressing.  We actually preferred fried chicken, squirrel, or rabbit.  I think it was probably more a dislike of the turkeys than the actual taste of their meat. 

Our liking the dressing but not turkey reminds me of the reverse about a little girl at the Thanksgiving dinner with her aunt.  Her aunt asked her, “Would you like a little more turkey and dressing?” The little girl said, “I’d like more turkey, but no more of that dressing. I don’t like it and I don’t see why the turkeys eat it either.”

Throughout history, many cultures have set aside a time for expressing their thankfulness. In the U.S. Thanksgiving Day originated with the pilgrims. In the midst of extreme hardship, loss of loved ones, and meager supplies, they still believed they were blessed.  They chose to celebrate with Native Americans who had helped them to survive.  In our modern time, we’ve lost the spirit of that original celebration when we, ourselves, or others complain that our Thanksgiving Day has been spoiled by bad weather, the choice of food, or a pain in our little toe on our left foot.  It’s not those things that are spoiled, but it is we ourselves who are spoiled - spoiled by the very blessings that should make every day a day of thanksgiving, whatever our circumstances.

Do you know that ingratitude is a sin, just as surely as is lying or stealing or immorality, or any other sin condemned by the Bible?  ROMANS 1:21 declares, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” This is an indictment from God against rebellious humanity.  Nothing  turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.

In PHILIPPIANS 4:6, Paul captures the underlying principle behind our sincere Christian thanksgiving, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  The above “in everything” is all-inclusive.  Nothing is left out.  Are you full of thankfulness or just full of turkey this season?

Jesse R. Spurlock

Pastor Emeritus,

Highland Park Baptist Church