Thanksgiving and “Things”

Turning to the dictionary to look up the meaning of even ordinary, common words can be a very profitable experience. I went to my dictionary the other day to look up the word “thing,” and was quite surprised at the length of the entry I found. Depending on its specific manner of use, the definition included all of this: “an affair, matter, circumstance; something done or to be done; that which is the product or the end of an activity; whatever exists, or is conceived to exist; a concrete object; an inanimate object.” It made me realize anew what a tremendous amount of “things” are covered by that word “thing.”

Thanksgiving Day is very much about “things.” It is set aside as a day on which we express gratitude to God for things, very concrete and specific things. We are thankful for food and clothing and shelter, for life and health and work, for parents and churches and schools. We are thankful for the cross of Christ, His shed blood, reconciliation between God and man, eternal life, heaven. The list of “things” for which we are grateful grows longer and longer in proportion to the time we take to think about all the things we have.

There is a verse in the Bihle which also makes mention of “things.” I have in mind Romans 8:32 which reads: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?” And this verse of the Bible has something important to say to us as we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. The giving of thanks is one thing; but it can only properly and meaningfully be done when a person rightly acknowledges the source of all “things.” Pity the atheist, who, in this thanksgiving season, has no one to whom to say thanks.


Thanksgiving Day is not a time to sit back and tell one another how hard we have worked for everything. Nor is it a day in which to gloat over our prosperity, or to complain because of a lack of it. Rather it is the climax of the Prayer Day of last March when God’s people gathered to ask His blessings upon the work of our hands and minds. It might even be called another “Prayer Day” in which we gather to profess the faith of Romans 8:32, the faith which knows that we cannot so much as cause one blade of grass to grow, one kernel of com to ripen, or one wheel of industry to tum. It is a day in which we acknowledge that all things—food, clothes and shelter, homes, automobiles and bicycles, shoes, furniture and candy, radio, television and space ships, medicines, antibiotics and drugs—all are from God, and only because He gives them.

Things” do not just come to us from the government, or from capital or labor or management. We do not owe the joy of this Thanksgiving Day to the labor organizations of our nation, the NFO, the Farm Bureau, or any other human organizations. But we owe it to God alone, who in His Sovereign good pleasure, has deemed it wise to give His grace unto men.

As an integral part of our thanksgiving celebration, we might well include the matter of confession. For we aU will admit, I trust, that often we have worried and been anxious and concerned for things. In the Spring we may have thought it rained too hard and too long, and in the Summer that it did not rain enough. And we have at other times been concerned that there would not be a sufficient supply of those raw materials out of which we refine and manufacture the basic necessities of life.

But would our concern for things really bring us more things? Is not the God whom we serve the One who provides for the lilies of the field which neither toil nor spin, and the One who cares for the birds of the air which neither sow nor gather into barns? And is it not so that it is out of our concern for God’s will and honor, born out of a heart that knows Him as the heavenly Father, that all things come to us?

In answer to our inquiry as to why we might expect all things from our Father‘s hand, we hear Paul’s emphatic answer: because God “spared not His own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” What is the greatest gift God ever gave to us? His Son! Is there then any reason to doubt that He will give us things of lesser importance?

No, God “spared not” His Son! He did not hold Him back—from the manger, from Gethsemane, from Calvary. He did not hold Him back from the stripes and thorns, from nails and scorn; but He gave Him up—to the torments of hell and death and judgment for us!

The point that must be made then is this: right at the center of our Thanksgiving Day stands the cross of Jesus Christ. That cross is the source of all the “things” for which we give thanks. We owe our gratitude to God because all of life’s everyday, ordinary things, as we have come to call them, stem from the cross. That cross is not an appendage to life, as some would have it, but it is right at the very center of life. And because God has given us the Christ of that cross, He shall indeed with Him freely give us all things.

There are all kinds of people who join in the celebration of Thanksgiving Day. But the question is not whether one joins in the expression of some kind of thanksgiving; but rather, is God acknowledged as the Giver, and do we see the centrality of the cross of Jesus Christ in the midst of the “things” for which we are grateful?

In spite of the economic woes of our times, we still enjoy an unmatched prosperity and a standard of living second to none. Our homes, our cars, our clothes, the food we consume, the fumiture we sit on, the property we own, the account we hold at the bank, the hospitals that care for our sick, the schools in which our children are educated—how long the list is! But apart from the cross of Jesus Christ and the salvation which is ours through His death, resurrection and ascension, all these “things” are quite meaningless, and all of our “thanks” is quite empty.

Shall He freely give us all things? Indeed, because He did not even spare His own Son! Let us then give thanks to Him, from whom has come the “Son” and all “things.”

Oh to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be; Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above.

Harlan G. Vanden Einde is pastor of Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.