Thanksgiving: Summit, Gratitude and a Culture of Entitlement
It is Thanksgiving Day and there is a brief pause in our preparations; the turkey is in the brine, ready to go in the smoker, Val has baked the pies, scones, etc., and the other accoutrements of our feast are in place. And so I pause to reflect on the wonders of God’s great blessing in our lives, even as they are in counterpoint with the presence of pain and loss. Truth is, there is that pain and loss in my life that can so easily strip away my gratitude—and there is a part of me that says,“It ought not to be this way.”
That word, “ought,” can be a slippery slope. On the one hand we wish that we hadn’t lost the job, or wish that we hadn’t gotten sick, or wish that a relationship wasn’t broken, and this is well-and-good. On the other hand, however,the unchecked, “ought,” can be a threshold to the, I deserve better syndrome; good old American entitlement.
God’s Word says humankind has a fundamental problem; we want to be [a] god (cf.Gen.3:5). Now, it’s a good thing to want to be God if you happen to be God and don’t have a sin nature. However, it is not so good to want to be god when you are not God, and you do have a sin nature. It’s a big problem to have the agenda and desire of a god, but no power to make it happen. As a consequence we believe we deserve anything and everything that our self-conceived deity suggests—we are entitled—and feel angry that we cannot accommodate our entitlement.
The truth is, we are not gods. We are, in fact, utterly needy and dependent on the good graces of the God who is there—even for the next breath that we take. The New Testament writer, James, says that our Heavenly Father is, and wants to be, the giver of every good gift (cf. Jas. 1:17). Our God has no needs and receives nothing from us.
We are steeped in need and receive everything from Him (despite the self-made-man myth so prevalent in this culture). Nothing I have actually belongs to me; what I have has been given to me and this gift is for a limited time. Of course, the only right response to His gifting, even during times of hardship, is the choice to be thankful. When I choose to not be thankful I am, by default, denying God’s gracious Deity, and affirming my own self- centeredness. The absence of gratitude is both the foundation and infrastructure of entitlement.
Like joy, gratitude is agnostic (unknowing;cf. 1 Thess. 5:16-18)of circumstances. Gratitude is a choice, a way of looking at one’s life. It is kindness, forgiveness and grace with shoe leather. Thanksgiving rightly has the emphasis on blessing others—and not one’s self. The thankful person is a conduit of blessing to others rather than a receptacle of blessing for self.
Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, put it this way:
“When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”
And so, among other things,we are a school called Summit. For my part I am so grateful for the privilege that is mine to be present in this place, to be together with this family.Summit is a great gift, a web of relationships with a God-given agenda to raise up a generation of children to know, love and obey God, even as they serve others. Like all other webs of relationships, however, I must determine and choose what my disposition toward it will be. Is Summit that which I and my children are entitled to (in all my self-centeredness), or is it an opportunity for me to express my wholeness in thanksgiving. At this festive time of the year it is my prayer that the latter will prevail over the former.
God bless you all,
Dr. Timothy Orton
Summit Classical Christian School