A THANKSGIVING MEDITATION: What Do You Have that You Did Not Receive?
I recall reading the following story as referenced by Jerrie Barber. While on a short-term mission trip, Jack Hinton from New Bern, NC, was leading worship at a leper colony on the island of Tobago. There was time for one more song, so he asked if anyone had a request. A woman who had been facing away from the pulpit turned around. “It was the most hideous face I had ever seen,” Hinton said. “The woman’s nose and ears were entirely gone. The disease had destroyed her lips as well. She lifted a fingerless hand in the air and asked, ‘Can we sing Count Your Many Blessings?’” Overcome with emotion, Hinton left the service. He was followed by a team member who said, “Jack, I guess you’ll never be able to sing that song again.” Hinton replied, “Yes I will, but I’ll never sing it the same way” (Leadership, Fall 1996; p. 69).
Ingratitude is one of the parent sins. The Scriptures provide a detailed listing of a whole host of sins that evidence the moral collapse that follows the intellectual move of exchanging “the truth about God for a lie” (cf. Romans 1:24-32). It is said to be the result of knowing God but not honoring Him as God or giving thanks (cf. Romans 1:21). Through the prophet Hosea, God said that Israel “did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold” (Hosea 1:8). Really? In what sense did Israel not know that every good thing she had was ultimately from God? It was only in the sense that she had known, but had committed the very mistake concerning which God had warned her.
Take care lest you forget the Lord your God . . . when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God. . . . Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.” You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth. (Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17)
It is refusing to live up to what one knows to be the case. Ingratitude is despicable because it entails irrationality. In Twelfth-Night, Shakespeare wrote, “I hate ingratitude more in a man Than lying, vainness, babbling drunkenness, Or any taint of vice whose strong corruption Inhabits our frail blood.” A farmer may take a stick and beat the branches of an oak tree so that the tree’s acorns will fall from the tree to the ground where the hogs can eat them. An ungrateful man is like the hog under the tree eating the acorns but never looking up to see from where the acorns came. Such is not disgusting in a hog, but it is inexcusable in every accountable human being. It is a reminder of the opening words of God through Isaiah, the great messianic prophet: “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:3).
From the visible creation, man is able to elicit the cognitive perception that infers knowledge about God—“namely his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). Such knowledge, from evidence clearly perceived, should result in rendering God the glory and the thanks constrained by such.
A boy was bringing home a loaf of bread. Someone asked “What do you have there?” “A loaf of bread.” “Where did you get it?” “From the baker.” “Where did the baker get it?” “He made it.” “Of what did he make it?” “Flour.” “Where did he get the flour?” “From the mill.” “Where did the miller get it?” “From the farmer.” “Where did the farmer get it?” The truth dawned on the boy’s mind, and he answered, “From God.” “Well then” the inquirer asked, “where did you get your loaf?” The boy answered, “From God.”
Paul asked the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Although asked in a different context, Paul’s question is relevant to the context of recognizing that every human being is eternally in the red with God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights . . .” (James 1:17).
Back of the bread is the snowy flour;
And back of the flour, the mill.
And back of the mill is the field of wheat,
The rain and the Father’s will.
Ascribe to God the glory that belongs to God in harmony with the eternal power and deity which the visible creation itself clearly makes known. Express it in thanksgiving.
Charles C. Pugh III