Theme: A Time to Share
This week’s lessons help us to celebrate Thanksgiving properly by impressing upon us the importance of continually expressing genuine thanks to the Lord for all his blessings.
Scripture: Nehemiah 8:10
I suppose that about this time in our study one person at least (perhaps more) is getting restless and is thinking that this does not sound very Christian. He might be thinking, “How can you be a Christian and have such a good time too?” Or maybe she is putting it more philosophically: “What is the difference between the enjoyment of food you have just been describing and mere hedonism? After all, pagans can enjoy the “good life also.”
This is a fair question, and there are a number of answers to it—not least the fact that, although we can enjoy good things exactly as the heathen do, we do not live in order to do just that. That is, for Christians the good life is not the goal of our existence. Remember that we also believe in work, struggle, repentance, sacrifice and other virtues.
But that is not the answer the text gives us, and I am concentrating on it. What is it according to Nehemiah 8:10 that makes the enjoyment of good things by God’s people different from the enjoyment of good things by others? The obvious difference is in the clause which says, “and send some to those who have nothing prepared.” Isn’t that just like the Bible? It always does the unexpected. Knowing the Bible’s primary concern with such important spiritual realities as truth, righteousness, the gospel, the need for repentance, faith, eternal life and others, we are startled first of all to find it encouraging real enjoyment of material things. But then, no sooner do we adjust our thinking than we find it reminding us that, in the midst of our very proper enjoyment, we are nevertheless also to remember those who have not been as blessed by physical things as we are.
Enjoy? Yes, but also share with those who do not have anything to enjoy. Eat heartily, but also help those who are hungry. How should that be done?
One way is to invite people in need to enjoy the holiday with you and your family. Many of us do this. We invite relatives to join our family gathering. Sometimes we also invite people who are alone, those who have lost a husband or a wife or are living in a nursing home perhaps. Most of these people probably are not literally hungry, but they may be hungry for attention, friends or just companionship. Some are unable to leave their homes, and we are to help by visiting them and actually taking some of the abundance of what we have to them.
And yet, this text is not really talking about those who are emotionally starved, as we might say, those who are hungry for love or attention or friendship. It is talking about those who literally are without food, and it is linking our enjoyment of this day to the sharing of our abundance with them. In other words, to really enjoy Thanksgiving we need to find ways literally to help feed the hungry. This happens in many places in our country, as thousands of people actually do care about others and so donate to food kitchens, and sometimes even serve meals to the poor on such holidays.
You need to find a way to do this. If you have not done it yet for this Thanksgiving, then plan to make sharing with others a part of all your holidays from now on.
From the lesson, how is the Christian’s enjoyment of good things different from that of the unbeliever?
Knowing that unbelievers also help others in need, how does the Christian’s efforts differ, not in terms of what is given, but in the motivation and meaning behind it?
Application: Find ways to include others in your times of thanksgiving.