by ProfDave, ©2021
(Nov. 23, 2021) — Turkey Day is on its way! Get the turkey, don’t let the turkeys get you. Most of us will eat too much and too many of us will forget why we are eating so much. Duh. We are eating so much for two reasons: 1) because we have been given so much and 2) because it is Thanksgiving. It is a day set aside to say thanks for the harvest and all the other good things we enjoy. Thanks to whom?
Not living in an agricultural society, particularly a subsistence agricultural society, we have lost the meaning of the harvest. Without it we would not eat. Failed harvests cause malnutrition, disease and loss of life. Early settlers in this part of the world died like flies waiting for harvest. They still do elsewhere. They put their children’s breakfast in the ground in the hope that God would grant sun and rain in the proper amounts and proper times so that it would germinate, grow and produce a harvest for the next year. No, food does not grow on shelves. It comes from dirt and fertilizer, from sun and rain. Food does not just happen. Even in our urban industrial society someone had to labor (anxiously) to grow it somewhere and transportation was required to bring it to our shelves. And God still has just as much to do with it as ever.
Who do you thank? Everything good comes from God. Plymouth Plantation (1621) knew who to thank. Hint: it was not the Indians. The Indians joined them, for they too depended on the Creator’s gifts. Yes, thank the cook and the farmers, too. But ultimately it is the maker of heaven and earth who provides, gives life and family, and “all things richly to enjoy.”
We spend altogether too much time focused on all that is wrong in our lives and our world – and there is plenty these days. Third world problems are coming to a location near you: terrorism, plague, political assassinations, riots, repression, inflation, scarcity of toilet paper and more. Should we not be thankful that we have become accustomed to first world prosperity and peace – that destitution and disaster are not everyday conditions for us?
“Privilege” has been getting a bad rap, but instead of envying what someone else has (there is always someone who has more), shouldn’t we thank the Lord for what he has given us? A privilege is an unearned blessing. While there may be privileges that are illegitimately grasped – taken away from others – all the big ones come from God. Privileges are to be appreciated – and shared.
Think about it. Life is a God-given privilege. You did nothing to earn it. You should be thankful that God gave you life and your mother did not abort you (and abort God’s plan for you). Appreciate it this Thanksgiving. You are privileged – be thankful.
You had nothing to do with where, when and to whom you were born either, did you? If you are reading this, God has given you the privilege of life. You are privileged to be born and to live in the USA. Most people are not. For most of us here it is by default, not deliberate choice. We still have more than most of the world. The poorest of us still have more freedom than most. We can still speak out, vote and even demonstrate (usually). We can worship and (mostly) live according to our conscience. We live in a land of opportunity, even if we eat at the Salvation Army this year, next year may be different. The immigration crisis shows us how other parts of the world long to share what we have. We should be ready to share the privileges of being American with the rest of the world, primarily by sharing the secrets of our liberty and prosperity, but also by sponsoring refugees. You are privileged – be thankful.
It is a great privilege, given to some of us, to be born into a stable home and family, with a father and mother in permanent union. Again, we did nothing to deserve this, but we may share it with our children. Too many in our society, through their parents’ choices, do not experience this privilege. It does them no good for us to scoff at this privilege as somehow “white.” It was black in the 50’s. Family values are a pathway to shared privilege – and the prime foundation for “the pursuit of happiness.” We share it by encouraging it. You are privileged – be thankful.
Of all the things for which we give thanks this Thanksgiving, those related to our life and family of origin are the most purely privileges. Other gifts are modified by our own decisions and efforts. Natural gifts and inherited wealth may be enhanced or abused for good or ill. If you are so privileged, God intended that you use your gifts and resources to bless others. Christianity teaches us that those who hoard or pervert their gifts and privileges must one day answer before the Judge of all the earth. You are privileged – be thankful.
Count your privileges. You are breathing, aren’t you? How about air? A friend must carry a bulky oxygen tank wherever she goes. Most, but not all of us have the privilege of fresh, breathable air. Try not to ruin it for others. You are privileged – be thankful.
How about water? If you have potable water on tap, that is a privilege for which you should be thankful. Do you have water to bathe, cook and flush without having to walk a distance to the spring to carry it back? Do you live in a land where it rains? Are you thankful? There are charities that share this privilege by installing wells and water purifiers in underprivileged areas. You are privileged – be thankful.
Having food to eat is a privilege, too, of course, but that is a no-brainer this season. The Salvation Army and many other churches and individuals share this privilege at Thanksgiving. You are privileged – be thankful.
Another privilege is to have a roof over your head. The homes of North Americans are about twice as big as homes of Europeans of comparable status. Can you even remember not having a microwave or central heat or a refrigerator? I can. A place to get in out of the rain, or the cold, or the heat is a privilege that not everyone has. There are ways to share. You are privileged – be thankful.
The privilege of security depends partly upon the availability and reliability of first responders. But as we have seen recently they are of no avail if other privileges are not present. The security of a community depends on stable families who inculcate respect for morality and authority – a God who is more than an expletive, fathers who are present and respectable, and civil authority that is just and uncorrupted. Without these privileges, no number of highly trained police or storm troopers can maintain security. If you are so privileged – be thankful.
How about the privilege of your five senses? The privilege of eyes to see and the beauty of creation given to us to enjoy. The privilege of ears to hear and of the beauty of music, natural and man-made. It is a mystery that natural evolution cannot explain, so thank God for it. You are privileged – be thankful.
How about the privilege of knowing your spouse? The privilege of watching your children grow – and of seeing your children’s children. If you are especially privileged, they will be around your thanksgiving table. You are privileged – be thankful.
Then there is the privilege of education – for those who pursued it. K-12 is free in this part of the world, but not everywhere. If you can read this, you are privileged. Thank a teacher. True, all schools are not equal, nor are all university degrees. Healthy families create healthy communities that support healthy schools to which they send healthy children. Privileged is the child who attends such a school, supported by involved parents. School choice, voucher systems and other alternatives help share these privileges with the underprivileged. If you are so privileged – be thankful. If you are not, there are public libraries and other work-arounds.
Health is a privilege. See life. Not all of us have the same health, of course, but if you can read this, you are still alive. Whatever ails us, we could be worse. I am thankful that arthritis chose to attack my fingers and not major joints. There is far more per-capita healthcare available in this country than most of the world. Cost is a limiting factor in our system, but at least it is not rationed. Thank a provider. This is a privilege that can – and often is – shared. You are privileged – be thankful.
My highest privilege is the knowledge of the Lord – not just head knowledge, but the privilege of his presence, the privilege of his forgiveness and the transformation of my heart by his spirit. In him you too have the privilege of a place in His House forever – death loses its finality. These privileges I would love to share with you. At the very least, you have the opportunity – “whosoever will, may come.” You are privileged – be thankful.
And finally, there is my privilege of recovery from hurts, hang-ups and addictions through the 12 Steps of Celebrate Recovery. In my church and especially in CR, I have a company of forever brothers and sisters to support me in my journey to wholeness. I am so unspeakably thankful that I cannot write another word!
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.