The Bible has an audacious requirement listed in the New Testament Book of Ephesians. In the 5th chapter it says, “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This bold command seems to fly in the face of common sense. How are we to give thanks for everything, even for things that are difficult or evil?
The way we are able to give thanks for all things becomes easier when we read the following from the book of Romans, “We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Notice how this passage does not say all things are good, but that all things are used for good.
How might that play itself out? Take the life of the Old Testament personality Joseph for example. His brothers, jealous of him, faked his death, telling his father that he’d been killed. Meanwhile they sold him to slave traders, who took him to Egypt. In Egypt, his administrative abilities caused him to rise to a point of prominence, and he became the head of many things. Joseph refused the advances of a governor’s wife; she lied about what happened, and Joseph was unjustly thrown into prison.
In prison, Joseph became known for his ability to interpret dreams, which eventually led him to be in a position to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. For this, he was put in charge of the nation’s stockpiles. When his brothers and their families needed food because of a faminem it was now Joseph who was in charge of all of the food in the land and in a position to save his family and all Israel.
At the conclusion of the account in Genesis 50 we read that Joseph told his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God used it for good,”
Yes, in God’s economy, nothing is wasted. God was in the business of using and reusing long before the “green” movement became popular. God wastes nothing.
It is not necessarily a difficult thing, nor does it take great faith to give thanks to God for a full pantry, a warm home and a safe family. While we are surely instructed to acknowledge God and give thanks in and for all these things, we are also called to give thanks, out of faith, for those things which we might not immediately see the good in.
Here is an ancient Chinese story to illustrate the point:
A Chinese gentleman lived on the border of China and Mongolia. In those days, there was constant conflict and strife along the perimeter. The man had a beautiful horse. One day, she leaped over the corral, raced down the road, crossed the border, and was captured by the Mongolians. His friends came to comfort him. “That’s bad news,” they said sadly. “What makes you think it’s bad news?” asked the Chinese gentleman. “Maybe it’s good news.” A few days later the mare came bolting into his corral, bringing with it a massive stallion. His friends crowded around. “That’s good news!” they cried. “What makes you think it’s good news?” he asked. “Maybe it is bad news.” Later, his son, while riding the stallion and trying to break it, was thrown off and broke his leg. “That’s bad news,” cried the friends. “What makes you think it is bad news?” asked the Chinese gentleman. “Maybe it’s good news.” One week later, war broke out with Mongolia, and a Chinese general came through, drafting all the young men. All later perished, except for the young man who couldn’t go because his leg was broken. The man said to his friends, “You see, the things you thought were bad turned out good; and the things you thought were good turned out bad.
This Thanksgiving, let’s take time to have faith enough to give thanks for all things. As Cicero said, “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.” Have a happy Thanksgiving!
The Rev. Albert Gillin is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church. Contact him at 509-525-1093 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at email@example.com.