I’m so glad that we celebrate thankfulness as a nation on Thanksgiving, but I have to admit that there are thoughts of guilt in my thankful reflections. Guilt – because I have so much compared to others in this world who deserve so much more. So as I give thanks for all that I have, I feel guilty for all that I have.
Here is my Guilty-Thankfulness List:
- My husband, alive, strong, and loving.
- My children, sassy, well-fed, and educated.
- My parents, healthy, wise, and a short walk or a phone call away.
- Safety and security for my family.
- My warm, messy, constantly under-construction, very full home.
- My church family and the freedom to worship together boldly.
- Laws that protect the practice of my faith and extend the same protection to others different from me.
- Employment that provides electricity, indoor plumbing, transportation, and all the comforts that I take for granted as “needs.”
- A community of people who would come to my rescue if needed.
- My reputation – people who I care about value my strengths and forgive my weaknesses.
There are so many other things, both basic and special, that I’m thankful for and feel guilty for enjoying at times. The guilt comes because of the contrast between my blessed existence and the tribulation that others face daily in their existence. How can I reconcile these two feelings?
The answers aren’t absolute or easy. Abundance isn’t always earned. Sometimes it’s just a blessing – a gift. Security isn’t always a result of good laws and strong armies. Sometimes it’s taken away unexpectedly in the safest countries. Peace isn’t always absent in the presence of turmoil. Sometimes it’s even more present in the midst of tribulation.
This world we live in is full of physical and emotional contrasts. But I believe God’s word to be true regardless of our situation. How can it be that people in poverty can feel richer than many of the wealthy? How is it that those who have lost everything can give more than others? How can those who fear imprisonment or death worship with more dedication and passion than the free?
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
This morning as I read this verse it spoke to me differently than it has in the past. Many times I’ve thought of this as a call to be a giver, and I still do. But as I view it through my guilty thankfulness, I see that people less fortunate than me have figured out the richness of the heart while many of us fumble through relieving our blessed guilt. We give a portion, some of our time, perhaps some money… sometimes… to help the less fortunate. We give our prayers, and that’s important. We give some thoughts, some smiles, or sympathetic looks. But how much do we really give compared to what we’ve been given? Have we given until we stand to suffer and then felt the blessing of God filling our souls with the abundance that meets our emotional and spiritual needs?
I’m not talking about a percentage or a dollar amount. I’m asking myself if I’m sowing sparingly or generously. In dollars and cents this will look different for each person. While our family ministered to people in Mexico last year, we were convicted by the generosity of people who had so little. It was difficult accepting gifts from the poor, but every one of them insisted on giving us something. With such love they gave to people they knew had no need. Why?! We were there to give and invest in them, but here they were giving and investing in us. Are their gifts wasted on us?
No. Let it never be said that compassion is wasted on another human being. Giving is good for the poor and the rich. It humbles both the giver and the receiver. It builds a better, more Christ-like humanity. Giving motivates others to give. Compassion inspires compassion. Love generates love. Sow these things generously, reap these things generously. We can’t run out of this kind of giving… God will bless us with abundance of heart, so that we have all we need to continue the good work of giving whatever is in our hearts to give.
Maybe guilt and thanksgiving can’t really coexist. I must have mislabeled it. It must be compassion, conviction, energy to give and invest in humanity beyond what I’ve given in the past. Not “Guilty Thanksgiving”… “Motivated Thanksgiving!”