Being Thankful

Today’s post is a reflection by one of Western Seminary’s faculty members on the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. In observance of this holiday, Transformed will take a break from new posts until Monday, November 30th.

November 26th is Thanksgiving. It is a national holiday set aside for just one purpose–to be thankful. An email I received recently encouraged me to be thankful:

I am thankful for the teenager who is not doing dishes but is watching TV because that means he is at home and not on the streets.

I’m thankful for the taxes I pay because it means that I’m employed.

I’m thankful for the mess to clean up after a party, because it means that I have been surrounded by friends.

I am thankful for clothes that fit a little to snug, because it means I have enough to eat.

I’m thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing, because it means I have a home.

I’m thankful for the complaining I hear about the government, because it means that we have freedom of speech.

I’m thankful for the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot, because it means I have been blessed with transportation and am capable of walking.

I’m thankful for my huge heating bill, because it means that I’m warm.

I’m thankful for the lady behind me in church who sings off key, because it means that I can hear.

I’m thankful for the pile of laundry and ironing, because it means I have clothes to wear.

I’m thankful for weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means I am capable of working hard.

I’m thankful of the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours, because it means that I’m alive.

And finally, I’m thankful for too much e-mail because it means I have friends who are thinking of me.


The pilgrims who celebrated America’s first Thanksgiving in 1621 were a thankful people. They were Englishmen who had come to America so they could live out their Christian faith without being dominated or controlled by the Church of England.

They set sail from England in 1620 and landed at Plymouth off the tip of Cape Cod on November 11th. It was late in the year and winter was coming on strong. They constructed simple houses to protect themselves from the snow and cold. But food supplies were running low, and many of the pilgrims were sick. Half of them died before spring of the next year.

When spring arrived they learned from friendly American Indians how to plant corn and catch fish. The fall harvest was good. And after the harvest, the governor of Plymouth Colony proclaimed a time of Thanksgiving to God for His faithfulness over the past year.

Their thanksgiving feast lasted three days! It had not been an easy year for the pilgrims.

Every family had lost loved ones to sickness and starvation. These people had very little in terms of material possessions. But they had their faith in God. And He was caring for them.

Thanksgiving is a very biblical concept. The psalms invite us to express our thanks to God. “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). But we are busy people and sometimes forgetful. Often we neglect to give God the thanks that He so much deserves.

This tendency is reflected in a miracle Jesus performed for a group of ten lepers (Luke 17:12-19). Ten lepers were healed, but only one returned to give thanks go Jesus who had healed him.

Jesus spoke to the Samaritan who had returned to thank Him and said, “Where there not ten cleansed? But the nine, where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this stranger?” Here Jesus reveals an important lesson: Thanksgiving is the obligation of those who have received a blessing.

Have you been blessed over this past year? In spite of the political and economic difficulties of our time, we are still a very blessed people. And our greatest blessing no doubt is the gracious provision of the blessings of the New Covenant which Jesus secured for us through His sacrificial death. Of all people this Thanksgiving, Christians have reason to be the most thankful!

About J. Carl Laney

J. Carl Laney teaches Biblical Literature at Western Seminary and is an instructor for Western's Israel Study Program. Carl has authored numerous books, including most recently, “Discipleship: Training from the Master Disciple Maker” (2018).

2 thoughts on “Being Thankful

  1. Thank you Carl, I appreciate you. We will use this tomorrow as we celebrate Thanksgiving with our daughter and her husband and three beautiful daughters. We are thankful for them all.

  2. Carl, thank you so much for these thoughts! I enjoyed how you turn reasons to complain into reasons for thanksgiving – a good counter-perspective that challenges our often negative and pessimistic attitudes.

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