This week, families will gather to celebrate “Thanksgiving.” For many, this will be an opportunity to relax with family, dismiss their diet, watch some football, or enter the shopping frenzy of Black Friday, now encroaching on Thursday. But Thanksgiving is more than a family reunion, a stuffed stomach, a football marathon or a discounted gadget. Thanksgiving can become a better way of life when we learn to “give thanks.”
It is easy to assume that the gifts we enjoy are gifts we’ve earned and own. But the truth is just the opposite. Everything we have is a gift from God. Everything.
When we think about giving thanks to God, we often think about giving to God a proportion of what is ours. Leonard Sweet, writing in SoulSalsa, challenges this view when he writes, “Jesus discipleship entails a trustee ethic, not a stewardship ethic. The New Testament Greek words most often translated as “stewards” (epitropos and oikonomos) are better rendered as “trustees.”
Trustees are the legal entities of an institution or estate. Technically, trustees “own” nothing, but they are legally accountable for everything. Jesus features a trustee in His story about a king who entrusts money to his trustees to invest while he goes away (Matthew 25:14-30). Three of the trustees invest the money, making more money for the king, and one does nothing, hiding the money. The one who hid the money is rebuked, and the others are commended. In each case, the king expects his trustees to release his money so that his estate might grow and prosper.
What would it mean for us to see ourselves as trustees this thanksgiving? Would it make a difference in how we receive and give thanks?
One of our first reflexes as infants is the grasping reflex. Place a finger in the palm of a small child, and they will grab tight. This instinct was probably very helpful when escape from a dangerous situation was necessary for an infant, but the instinct is dangerous to our spiritual wellbeing when we carry it into adulthood. Grabbing tight to whatever — under the illusion that it’s ours — is a sure way to shrink our soul. God calls us out of that bondage by inviting us to release our grip, and the first step is to recognize that we are trustees.
This Thanksgiving, I invite you to consider yourself a trustee who is learning to “give thanks.” Begin to see yourself as a trustee of God’s good gifts and I bet you will find yourself receiving and giving with greater thanksgiving