Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankfulness for the Giver More Than the Gift

Recently my wife, Ruth, shared with our children some thoughts about thanksgiving that had been on her mind lately. On this Thanksgiving Day, I would like to take some of those ideas and share them with you. From a book by Cynthia Heald called Becoming a Woman of Prayer, came this quote by Matthew Henry. It is part of his commentary on 2 Samuel where Hannah had been praying for a son. Following the answer to that prayer, Hannah praises God. Here is what Matthew Henry writes:

What great things she (Hannah) says of God. She takes little notice of the particular mercy she was now rejoicing in, does not commend Samuel as the prettiest child, the most toward and sensible for his age that she ever saw, as fond parents are apt to do. No, she overlooks the gift and praises the Giver; whereas most forget the giver and fasten only on the gift. Every stream should lead us to the fountain; and the favors we receive from God should raise our admiration of the infinite perfections there are in God.”

Ruth has been focused on gratitude as a way of life for some time now. Most of us are not as thankful as we ought to be. However, when we are thankful, we usually focus on the gift. As children we may receive something we really wanted for Christmas from our grandmother. Our mom may whisper, “Go thank your grandma for this.” And we may dutifully obey, but actually, even though we are thankful to have received the gift, we may be so focused on the gift that we really don't think much about the giver.

There are several implications for teaching our children and ourselves to focus on the giver. We may receive a gift that really isn't our favorite. Or we may receive something that we already have or is perhaps not our style. If we are focused on the gift, we will subtly or maybe not so subtly be whining or be discouraged that we didn't get the gift that we had hoped for or that was more to our liking. However, if we are focused on the giver, we will be thankful that grandma or Aunt Suzie or mom or dad loved us enough to give us something. We will be grateful for that person and how much they care about us and the time and effort that went into choosing or making the gift. The ultimate giver of every good gift is God and so we will be thankful to God for bringing such a person into our lives who would care enough about us to bring us a gift.

So may I encourage us on this Thanksgiving Day to really work at developing a thankful spirit that focuses on the giver rather than the gift itself. May those of us who are parents strive to teach our children to focus on the giver rather than the gift. That's not an easy task and it certainly won't happen if we make sure our children always get exactly what they want, or if we too quickly replace what gets broken. Let's turn our eyes and the eyes of our children to the giver and ultimately to the One who gave everything, the Lord Jesus Christ.

With our best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving Day,  Ruth and Roger

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