Thanksgiving is one of the most challenging seasons to celebrate authentically because we in America have so much. We are at the top of the world scale in per capita income and standard of living. While we have only 4% of the world’s population, we have 47% of the world’s millionaires. There seems to be a tendency in human nature to be less grateful when people accumulate a lot. When people have less, they seem to be more grateful for what they do have.
I am convicted by that Pew Research Center survey of 48,643 people in 44 countries . They found that people in poorer nations in Africa and South America were much more likely to say they were having “a good day” than people in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. The study seemed to show that the people who have the least seemed to have the best attitude and make the most and enjoy life as “a good day.” The people who have the most didn’t acknowledge having “a good day.”
The whole world was shocked by a picture recently of a homeless Filipino boy when he was photographed studying on the sidewalk by the light of a McDonald’s restaurant. Daniel Cabrera, 9, captured the hearts of the world. People responded by making donations of cash, school supplies, and even a college scholarship. McDonald’s has pledged to create a reading program for 400 first grade students at the young boy’s school in Mandaue City.
The response of this young boy and his family has been one of deep gratitude. Daniel’s mother said, “Our family can’t be more thankful for all the support given to us.”
Two wealthy Christian gentlemen were a part a tour that carried them around the world. While they were in Korea they visited a field by the side of the road. They saw a boy pulling a crude plow while an old man held the plow handles and directed it through the rice paddy.
The wealthy Americans were amused and took a picture of the scene. One said to the missionary accompanying them, “That’s a curious sight.” The missionary replied, “Yes, that is the family of Chi Noui. When the church building was built, they were eager to give something, but they had no money, so they sold the only ox they had and gave the money to the church. This spring they have to pull the plow themselves.”
The wealthy Americans were silent as they tried to process what their eyes were seeing. One of them then said, “That must have been a real sacrifice.” The missionary replied, “They did not call it a sacrifice. They thought they were fortunate that they had an ox to sell.”
It changed the attitude of those two men. Both of them admitted that they had never given from a standpoint of sacrifice, only from surplus. Real giving doesn’t come from surplus, but from sacrifice. The size of a gift is never determined by the amount of the gift, but by the amount of the sacrifice.
Mark 12:41-44 tells how Jesus sat by the temple treasury and observed as people put in money. A poor widow came by and dropped in two tokens – the smallest coins in the currency. While the people watching thought it wasn’t much, Jesus said that she had given more than anybody else. They thought Jesus didn’t know much about economics. Jesus stunned them by offering a whole new economic theory when He said that she had given the most because she gave all that she had. Her gift was from a sacrifice – not a surplus.
Count your blessings this Thanksgiving. I remember as a child we used to challenge each other by saying “how high can you count?” How high can you count with your blessings?
Thanksgiving – give thanks from your surplus – give a gift from your sacrifice.