‘I imagine the most difficult moment for an atheist is when he is truly grateful, and has no one to thank.’
We have just passed through the Thanksgiving holiday. It is my favorite time of year because, as Chesterton’s words show, a grateful spirit humbly admits it is not self-sufficient. For this reason, I suspect the urgency of Black Friday/Cyber Monday and the shopping craze of Christmas is intentional spiritual warfare on the part of the devil and his angels, designed to minimize the spiritual damage done to his kingdom by turning the tide of joyful thanksgiving back towards covetousness.
With that in mind, I want to intentionally linger on the idea of Thanksgiving by observing one more door opened by it.
‘Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.’ (Ephesians 5:4)
What is unique about this passage is not that the Bible discourages crude or foolish talk, or that it encourages the giving of thanks. Both are true. However, the connection between the two is the key: crude joking and thanksgiving are set up as opposites. At the root of coarse and foolish talk is bitterness and pride. There is something about thanksgiving which is fatal to this kind of speech.
Self-satisfied pride often manifests itself in cynical and boastful words, too busy with itself to enjoy anything properly. Humility, on the other hand, recognizes its own need and dependence on God. Liberated from self-absorption, the humble heart is free to enjoy everything else. The reason that thanksgiving is offered as the antidote for filthy speech is that it is impossible to take God’s gifts for granted or misuse them when you are truly grateful for His generosity to you.
There is great transforming power in Thanksgiving. As we move toward Christmas, let’s take our grateful hearts with us.