Another Thanksgiving is upon us. We mark another year of losses and gains, joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies. In all there is to beset us, there is yet so much to be thankful for.
In catastrophe, there are helping hands. In loss, there is generosity. In our connections as family and friends, there are simple affection, vigilance, hope, willing sacrifice. The life of Americans as a people is not defined by dysfunction and callousness. It’s defined by a truly remarkable freedom and means to care.
We tend to forget that, in part because it’s not of political use to emphasize it. The good that men and women do outside of politics is the best good we humans do, and the kind we should be most thankful for. Politics has little use for it, however. When life is hyperpoliticized, as it has been in the West for a long time, the tremendous value we can and do put into the world is trivialized wherever it doesn’t serve a political end.
I don’t say this to make anyone downcast on Thanksgiving. I say it rather to offer a reflection whose time I think has come. We need to understand that politics is never going to help us out of this do-loop. Politics has its purpose, but what we need is a spiritual maturity beyond politics. To get out of the do-loop of hyperpoliticization,we have to just cut the cord and walk away.
We should walk away from it, and without fear or regret. We should have confidence that we are free to acknowledge the bright side of what needs to be done in our world, and fully authorized to do so. Good people are out there doing good things, and more will come along, because in America, we are free to do them.
How many of us understand how rare it has been across human history for a people to have the freedom and the means to choose to give generously, and choose to do good in large and meaningful ways?
It’s not just our own material blessings we have to be thankful for. It’s the good we’re able to do for others. It’s the good they’re able to do for us. We already have these blessings. Not according to anyone’s political program, but in accordance with the simple providence of God, in whose economy giving comes from the heart, and is powerfully accelerated for that reason.
An economy of guilt and blame, one that weighs and measures people’s giving and always finds it wanting, is not a godly one. The grace of America is precisely that we don’t have to be “about” a zero-sum giving game. That game kills our moral spirit. But we don’t have to play it. We are free to turn a deaf ear to the divisive hectoring that seeks to destroy us inside. Politics lives by those things – but we have the incredible gift of the freedom not to.
And what we do with that gift is the greatest wonder the world has ever seen. God tells us to tithe ten percent; America’s ten percent is unfathomably colossal, and reaches to the farthest corners of the earth through the homeliest of people and the humblest of practical plans. It’s not pride we should feel about that. It’s gratitude.
Most societies in history have been able to make some people rich. America’s makes most people able to look beyond themselves and exercise a giving spirit. That is a wealth beyond riches. It’s the great harvest of freedom: that working men and women can give like kings.
Dear friends, this is something we can be truly thankful for. The ever-present downside of government and politics is their constant goal of usurping our most precious freedoms. The condition of most humans has always been one of having to live under the sword between bribe and tribute, with their discretion about work and finances limited by predatory governments and resentful social custom. America, by design, is different.
The blessing of this is incalculable. The successful apparatchiks of socialism can live in wealth, while the vast majority of people live in poverty. But the apparatchiks cannot give. Even the wealthy live under that sword between bribe and tribute. They don’t have the discretion that free people have, and that we take for granted.
Cherish this freedom. Be thankful for it. Turkey and dressing, however savory, come and go. But the giving we are so uniquely free to do will be work that stands at the last day, and is not burned by fire. Never give up the freedom – the right – to do that work, according to God’s call on your heart.
It was the president’s Thanksgiving proclamation that got me thinking about this, so I include a link to it for your perusal.
My grandfather read Psalm 100 to us whenever we had Thanksgiving dinner at the grandparents’ house. Here it is, in the King James Version most English-speaking children memorized at the time:
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
Finally, a beloved Thanksgiving hymn – “We Gather Together” – with a setting and organ accompaniment to shake the rafters. (An introit takes up the first 1:30 or so.)
Happy Thanksgiving, LU Nation.