The Tragedy of Unthankfulness
In keeping with the thought of a national Thanksgiving Day, we read in Psalm 92:2, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.” The world is always looking for “a good thing,” and is willing to pay large sums for something of merit. Recognizing these facts, may we consider a “good thing” which is often overlooked. According to our text, giving thanks unto the Lord is definitely a good thing. Surely none would presume to question this statement even if it did not appear in the Bible.
We will approach the subject of thanksgiving from a slightly different angle than that from which it is generally considered. As white is more conspicuous when placed upon a black background, so good is the more noticeable when surrounded by evil. If, as our text states, it is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord; the converse must also be true, that it is a bad thing not to give thanks unto Him. Perhaps our hearts and minds will be more easily stimulated by a negative consideration of the subject. So, instead of heading this message, “The Blessing of Thanksgiving,” we will give it the title, “The Tragedy of Unthankfulness.”
With this end in view, we will observe, in the first place, that failure to give thanks to God for His manifold gifts is a sin.
Though you admit that thanksgiving is a virtue, are you as ready to admit that unthankfulness is a sin? Perhaps we all need to confess the sin of failing to say “thank You” to our God.
Unthankfulness is a direct violation of the will and Word of God. The Bible commands: “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess. 5:18). Unthankfulness is also a failure to follow the example of biblical saints. In the Psalms we see how frequently King David, that sweet singer of Israel, breaks forth in outbursts of thanksgiving. When Daniel heard the decree, that all who prayed to any other god than the king were to be cast into a den of lions; we read that “He kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” How many of us could sing a song of thanksgiving to the obligato of the lions’ roar? When Paul was in the midst of the storm, and the doom of the ship seemed certain, we read that he encouraged the sailors to take food; “and when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God, in the presence of them all.” Again, unthankfulness is a failure to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before He fed five thousand and on another occasion the four thousand, He took the loaves and fishes and gave thanks before He gave to His disciples and they to the multitude. Doubtless many families will on Thanksgiving Day sit down to a table laden with food and never stop to give thanks to God, the Giver of it all.
Unthankfulness does not recognize the sovereignty of God. Since “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” what right have we to call things our own? And what right do we have to use God’s property without recognizing, at least by word of mouth, His ownership? Unthankfulness is a failure to admit our dependence upon God. “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” “Every good gift and every perfect gift… cometh down from the Father of Lights.” Think what suffering would result if God were to withhold His mercies but for a week. How sad it is that many show more gratitude to a fellow creature than to God the Creator and Sustainer of all. Have you ever noted the relative size of your “thank you’s”? We give a strong, emphatic “thank you” to a friend. We give a faint “thank you” to one of our own family. But when it comes to Almighty God, from the alms-basket of whose providence we live day by day, many fail to say “thank you” at all. Surely the law of common courtesy condemns us for such a course.
Having seen that unthankfulness is a sin, we call your attention, in the second place, to the tragic results of unthankfulness.
These results are graphically set forth in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. Did you ever observe that unthankfulness is one of the two causes for God’s awful indictment to the human race as found in that same chapter? After having stated that man had an adequate revelation of God’s eternal power and Deity in the beginning, and is therefore without excuse; we read this significant statement: “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. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” Because man failed to praise God for what He is, and thank Him for what He did; man brought upon himself all the tragic results of idolatry. He became vain (empty) in his reasonings, darkened in his heart, foolish in his actions, idolatrous as to religion, morally corrupt and filled with all kinds of iniquity.
Today we need the fearful warning which this chapter gives. God is neither named nor recognized in many homes, family altars are broken down, parents are no longer obeyed, God is not honored, and lawlessness abounds. Sad indeed, is the nation, the people, the family, or the individual who loses a sense of God.
We have seen the sin of unthankfulness and the tragic results thereof; may we look, in the third place, at —the many objects for which we may express our thanks to God and thus avoid committing the sin of ingratitude.
Objects For Thanksgiving
We should be thankful for national blessings. For some years we have been at peace with the world. During the two world wars, many meetings were called that prayers might be offered for peace. Should we not take time now to thank God for the measure of peace which we enjoy, especially when much of the world is seething with unrest? History shows that war may break out most unexpectedly.
Again, we have been abundantly blessed with temporal necessities. Harvests have been so bountiful that our leaders are disturbed with the disposition of surpluses. Work has, for the most part, been plentiful. But few are in real want. Yet there are millions in other parts of the world who are not so favoured, many of whom never know what it is to have enough to eat and are constantly on the verge of starvation.
There are also many personal blessings for which we should thank God. He has supplied our needs, given us health and happiness, enriched us with families and friends. Let us render the thanks that belongs to Him. Let us never forget how quickly these things might be taken from us. The God who gives, sometimes sees fit to take away.
Those of us who are really Christians have great spiritual blessings far exceeding in value all temporal gifts. We have been saved by the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ, who died upon the cross to redeem us from our sins. We have redemption, forgiveness, justification, peace with God, eternal life, and the assurance of eternal bliss in the world to come. Since God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.
In the next place, we call your attention to the fact that only a redeemed soul can render acceptable thanks to God.
In Hebrews 13:15 we read, “By Him (i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ) let us offer the sacrifice of praise unto God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His Name.” How can we give thanks unto His worthy Name, if we have never accepted the One who bears that Name as our Saviour; and while we are spurning His gracious invitation and counting His precious blood a common thing, unworthy of our notice? “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me,” the Lord Jesus said. Yet there are many who presume to come in their own name or in the name of some other one. Since salvation comes through a simple acceptance of God’s unspeakable Gift, His only begotten Son, and since all spiritual blessings come through Jesus Christ, we must know Him to be able to thank God.
Having thus seen the sin of unthankfulness and the sad results attending it, having considered how this sin may be avoided, and who may render acceptable thanks; we must conclude that, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,” and a tragedy not to do so.
“Thou life of my life, blessed Jesus,
Thou death of the death that was mine,
For me was Thy cross and Thine anguish,
Thy love and Thy sorrow divine;
Thou suffered the cross and the torment,
That I might forever go free
A thousand, a thousand thanksgivings,
I bring, blessed Saviour to Thee.”
Study how to use the Bible so as to “walk with God,” and lead others to Christ. Set apart at least fifteen minutes each day for studying it; this will be grand in result.
Read the Bible as if it were written for yourself, and be sure you hunt for something. Before reading always pray to God to help you understand it, and then expect that He will.
Let the reading of the Word be always accompanied with prayer that the Holy Spirit may be your teacher, and guide you into all truth. Also, if you read with self-application, the Word will so search and judge the heart and life, that confession of sin will be the necessary result, and this ought to follow at once on the evil being discovered. Then the promises and comforts of Scripture will call for instant and continual thanksgiving; then will the truth become a sanctifying power, being received in communion with God.
Believers are travellers in an enemy’s country, and require to carry their sword continually in their hand or by their side, ready to defend themselves — have the Bible always ready at hand or in your pocket. Of what use will your sword be if you keep it in the scabbard hanging on the wall of your house — the Bible on the shelf and not used? If you have not exercised yourself by the handling of it and become familiar to its use, it will be of little service to you in the hour of battle. The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword.
—The Barley Cake.