Giving thanks is a genuine debt we owe to God

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Local Columnist

If we wish to absolutely ensure that we will never be thankful people, that we will always be morose and bitter, self-centered and utterly miserable; the very best way to successfully sabotage our own happiness is to always center on our own rights, avoiding any thought of our own responsibilities or, better yet, to think incessantly about the responsibilities of others or society itself, toward us.
Of course, as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve — bearing a remarkable family resemblance to our first parents in at least their most negative characteristics — we have a long and sordid history of taking exactly the approach I’ve just mentioned. Adopting that sort of an attitude is amazingly easy in a society with magazines like “SELF” proudly emblazoning their bankrupt philosophy right along with their name and where “Have it your way,” is as much a personal motto as it is a jingle for selling hamburgers.

Maybe we shouldn’t be at all surprised that an attitude that is at heart completely selfish is the default mode for human beings who deny or ignore the Creator, all the while breathing His air but refusing or neglecting to bow to thank Him for it.

Ultimately, if you don’t give thanks specifically to God, well, who do you thank? And why?

“It must be odd,” I remember one man writing, “to be thankful to no one in particular.”

If giving thanks is simply a matter of our picking and choosing a few folks or institutions to whom we’ll deign to be thankful for a few things …

If giving thanks is simply at heart the sort of personal preference and choice (like mayo or mustard on your burger) that we make out of our fine moral character and good upbringing and has no serious consequences …

If giving thanks is anything less than the very real and genuine debt we creatures properly owe to our loving and powerful Creator …

… then I can easily see why we would spend most of our time thinking about the blessings and “rights” we somehow deserve rather than the thanksgiving we owe to God. If we adopt that attitude and we think of God at all, we think of him either as a heavenly slot machine mechanically dispensing the good things we deserve or, when things don’t go our way, as the One to whom we can address all of our complaints and grumbles.

But Christians should know better. We serve a King who laid aside all of his rights and lowered himself even to die so that we might have the blessings of sons and daughters of Heaven. Dare we talk about our rights and grinch and grouse like ungrateful and churlish peasants? No, not in the presence of our all-loving and completely unselfish King.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at