Thanksgiving is one of the times of the year that we are in agreement with the cultural mindset around us. Even most of our unchurched neighbors will doing something that we believe in this week: giving thanks. But most people are giving thanks in one direction, while we are called to give thanks in both: backward and forward.
In Deuteronomy 26, Moses gives the people instructions on what to do when they enter the promised land. It involves giving thanks to God for what God has provided, but it is also more than that. The instructions include bringing the firstfruits to God – the first of what is gathered. That demonstrates not only thankfulness for what God has done, but trust in or thankfulness for what God will do (provide enough for the future).
We celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of the November, when the fields are empty and the storehouses are full. Real Christian thankfulness is showing our gratitude when the fields are still ripening and the storehouses are empty. Because the defining feature of our faith as followers of Jesus Christ is our belief in something that has both already happened and not happened yet: Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death for us, but, while we know that, we won’t completely experience it until later, when we die.
If we don’t push our thankfulness in both directions (back for what has been done, forward for what God will soon provide), we lose the generosity toward others that Christ demonstrated before us, the generosity that moves others to share and grow and follow. So, this Thanksgiving, don’t only look back with thankful hearts: look forward with hopeful ones.