Most people in the U.S. are familiar with the Thanksgiving holiday. Chances are if you ask one of your Bethesda neighbors about the first Thanksgiving, they can tell you how in 1621, after their first harvest in the new world, the Pilgrims and American Indians came together for a feast. Even your grandkids can tell you the reason for that long-ago feast was that they were celebrating and giving thanks for what they had been given.
For many people, Thanksgiving is also a time for family, friends and celebration. However, it’s also a time for demonstrating faith. That's in part because the holiday is rooted in the idea of giving thanks to God for what we have.
As James 2:26 says, faith apart from works is dead. In other words, the things we do are expressions of our faith. During this holiday, a time specifically set aside for being thankful, we can demonstrate that thankfulness by living out the faith. Plus, it’s also an excellent method of keeping God's commandments
In John 14:15, Jesus said, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Additionally, in Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus says to love God with all your heart and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself. He also says that these two commandments are the foundation for all the law and the prophets.
So, more than simply focusing on the commandments and what they mean, that provides us with very real, tangible things we can use to keep the commandments and demonstrate our faith. They’re an outline for us to follow in demonstrating our faith.
For some, serving is the most obvious way of demonstrating faith during the Thanksgiving season — and with good reason. What better way to show thankfulness for what God has given you than to give of yourself to help others in some way. There are tons of ways to do this, including:
• Volunteering to feed the homeless
• Using your knowledge to tutor students
• Helping your neighbor with something they need
• Cooking food for someone
• Giving someone a ride
• Praying with someone
The possibilities are virtually endless. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just as long as you get out there and help out someone else in some way. Seniors who are living in assisted living communities can reach out to other residents to provide companionship or join in on activities for donation drives or other efforts on behalf of the entire community.
Lately Thanksgiving has almost been replaced by the day after, referred to as Black Friday. It’s a kickoff of sorts to the Christmas season, and retailers have traditionally taken advantage of so many people being off from work to offer sales and other incentives. Much to many people’s distaste, this has even begun to encroach on the actual day of Thanksgiving. However, this does provide opportunities for ways to live the faith.
Numerous charities begin more earnest efforts at collecting donations during this time. From the Salvation Army ringing bells for change at stores to angel trees providing opportunities to give presents to disadvantaged children, you can find a plethora of ways to donate during this time of year.
This one is a more personal way of demonstrating faith that everyone can do regardless of finances, physical capabilities or even overall health. Taking the time to express gratitude is inherently Biblical and something we are even commanded to do. For example, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” While we are supposed to do this all the time, the Thanksgiving holiday can be a reminder that it’s what we are called to do.
It doesn’t even have to be something overly involved. It can be as simple as telling a friend you appreciate them, praying in the morning to thank God before starting the day or just being appreciative to people in general. The best part about this one is that it’s contagious — the more gratitude you express to people, the more you will receive back or they'll share with others.
Since the holiday is all about being thankful, it can also be a time for reflection. This makes it the perfect time to take stock of how well you’re serving God. From there, you can set goals for the forthcoming year much like you would with a vision board. There are a few ways to do this:
• Set a goal to journal daily about your walk with God
• Set dates for specific actions like volunteering
• Schedule set times for Bible study and prayer
• Decide to donate a specific amount each week or month
The things you come up with can be public or private, and you can share them or keep them internal. The idea is to look at where you are in your faith and see where you can improve.
The Thanksgiving holiday is a time of joy, celebration and thankfulness that can trigger a renewed sense of purpose for our walk with God. With so much emphasis on giving thanks, it can feel like it’s the perfect time to improve your faith by doing more to demonstrate it. The good news is that it is. In this season of celebration and giving thanks, you can demonstrate that thankfulness by demonstrating your faith.