Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving for the non-believer

Unless I totally misunderstand the English language, our upcoming Thanksgiving holiday - by definition - requires someone to thank. That's what the phrase "giving thanks" means, after all.

Gathered around the table on the fourth Thursday of November, believers may thank God for the provision of good gifts, including the family and friends gathered there. But if the non-believer participates in Thanksgiving, who are they thanking?

  • The standard response might be "Thanks for my family and friends" - but again, who are they thanking? Do they thank other people for being their family & friends?
  • If they thank someone for the bountiful provision, who do they thank? Their employers for providing the paycheck that enabled them to buy all the turkey and pumpkin pie?
I used to think it was pure hypocrisy.

But consider this: They don't even realize it, but they are giving glory to God. By acknowledging the good gifts, the bountiful provision, they are by default acknowledging the giver of those gifts. Do they recognize God as the One who has provided for their every need? Of course not. They assume that all earthly possessions come from the hands of men - their own or their employers'. But God has chosen to use sinful humans, including nonbelievers and their employers, to provide for the needs of mankind. God has chosen to funnel the giving of earthly goods through the hands of humans, whether they acknowledge Him as the ultimate source or not.

Can non-believers glorify God, perhaps even without knowing it? Consider these Scriptures:
1 Peter 2:11-12
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions
of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the
Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may
see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Romans 15:8-9a
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

These verses don't speak directly to the idea of non-believers glorifying God without knowing it, but the thought may be there.

So if you have non-believing friends or family around your table this Thursday, say a special prayer of thanks for their (unwitting) praise and glory of God.


Eutychus said...

George knew who to give thanks, plius a littlle theology.

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

Baird boy said...

I have been thinking a lot lately about the good things unbelievers do. Yes, they are as dirty rags before God. Also though, those good things they do seem to me that they are realy just storing up wrath for themselves. I mean, they do these things which are a tribute to the Grace of God even to the unbelievers, but they do not give credit to the source of there ability to do those things.