“The First Thanksgiving”
The first Thanksgiving (on record) happened not hundreds but thousands of years ago. Here’s how it went:
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:3-7)
One thanksgiving, two men, two offerings, and two totally different reactions. The Lord was looking for both of them to realize who was God and who was not, so He invented the first thanksgiving by asking them to bring an offering to praise Him.
There are many theories behind why God rejected Cain’s offering, but the point is that there was a mind-set problem with him that didn’t set well with the Lord. Abel, however, gave his offering with a grateful heart, which is why God smiled back at him.
This is the time of year where we reflect on life and respond with being thankful, but let’s not forget that God cares very much about the attitude behind the gratitude. So the main question you need to ask yourself is: am I more like Cain, or Abel?
Here’s what Thanksgiving may look like for Cain: He gets up, and is mainly looking forward to completely gorging himself on free food. He is thankful for a few days off from school or work, but mainly because he likes to be lazy. At the table, he wants to be served first, and when it comes time to praise God before the meal, his mind wanders to what is going on with the football game or getting together with friends later.
After the meal, his family gathers to have a time of sharing about things for which they are thankful. He is annoyed that he’s stuck with a family that must do such cheesy things, and wishes he didn’t have to follow any rules. Eventually the day ends, and finally he utters a quick prayer to God, thanking Him for … what was it again? Oh yeah, all the stuff he has.
That kind of thanksgiving is like wax fruit in a bowl. It looks real on the outside, but in reality it is fake and useless, and that is a good reason for God to reject it.
Abel on the other hand, remembers that even the very air he breathes is a gift from God. He knows that if there is anything good in his life, it is directly from the hand of God. So his focus this weekend is to take the energy he would normally devote to school and/or work, and direct it towards thanking God and serving others. So, he is quick to help set the table and clean up afterwards, he is intentional in listening to others, and actively participates in the family traditions. At the end of the day he makes a list of all the blessings of God and thanks Jesus for every one of them.
Heartfelt thankfulness has an amazing effect. It gives us hope, as it turns our focus from self to the giver of all good things the Lord God Almighty.
Grace & Peace,
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