This is what we eat for Thanksgiving in Illinois: Turkeer. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
We say, ‘thank you,’ when someone gives us something; it’s an acknowledgement of our need and another’s generosity. When you give thanks, you are admitting that you are now better off – someone has filled your vacancy. This does not mean that you were incapable of mowing your own lawn, for example, but that your neighbor did it for you because you were overwhelmed that week – it was an act of service to you that made your life a little more manageable.
I thank God that he is not like me. He is never put into a state-of-affairs where he needs a little help to manage things. He does not need to say thanks because he has no need of support, generosity, or a helping hand. He is self-sufficient in every way. He brings things into existence with no prior need for raw material (Gen 1:1). He is not to be served as though he needed anything – but it is everything and everyone else that is in need of him (Acts 17:24-25). If everyone did his duty towards God with absolute perfection, there still would be no obligation for God to say thank you (Luke 17:9).
Now this does not mean that God is unappreciative. He is a happy and rewarding God who will say “atta boy” to all who persevere to the end, to those who remain faithful to follow the Lord (Matt. 25:21). In this way, we are like him: when we see good work we praise it and show our pleasure and approval. But this is not the same thing as saying thanks. I’m not splitting hairs: saying “thanks” and saying “good job ” are not the same. What difference does all this make for our Thanksgiving Holiday?
1. I am reminded how needy I am and how generous God is to me.
2. I am reminded that God can’t ever be lacking in any way. This is good news because God can’t ever be exhausted! He is endless and infinite in mercy, love, and grace. There will never come a time when he is running low on supplies. There will never be a circumstance by which he is flummoxed and needs some counsel and advice from you or me. God will never experience helplessness, but . . .
Since Jesus was both God and Man, Jesus knows our need because he chose to live a life in need. He gave his Father thanks for hiding and revealing the truth to whomever he chose (Matt. 11:25-26), and Jesus thanked his Father for food (John 6:11). And this means,
3. Our Father in heaven will always empathize with our need. Though he knows no need within himself, yet, he knows my need, for he lived it (Heb. 4:14-16). Our Father in heaven does not feel imposed upon when we keep coming to him, as if he wants us to just buck up and be more self-reliant. No, he calls us to keep asking, seeking, and knocking, for he knows our need. The problem is that we don’t know how helpless we truly are – this is why we struggle with thanking him: we are prideful in our false world of self-reliance. But how much sweeter life is when we know who we are in the face of a selfless God!
This is why I thank the Lord that he does not need to give thanks.
I take a few moments to reflect upon food, the God who made food for the body, and our Thanksgiving Holiday.
There are many ways to dishonor God with food – I speak of only two here. One, you can abstain from eating meat because you think it is a more virtuous, pious, and greater spiritual level of existence that is superior than eating meat. The apostle Paul addressed this kind of idolatry, saying,
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer (1 Tim. 4:1-5; see also Romans 14 for a longer treatment on this subject).
For some time now I have noticed that veganism is just as much of a spiritual approach to life as it is a dietary one. Most Vegan books, essays, websites, and restaurants, promote abstinence from meat as a spiritual pursuit, not purely dietary.
For the third time now, my wife and I went to a vegan restaurant in Chicago and truly enjoyed delicious, healthy food, prepared wonderfully for the eye, the nose, the palette, and the stomach. At “Karyn’s On the Green,” in Chicago, this note of appreciation is imprinted on the wall by the vegan restaurant founder:
“There is no judgment here. No good or bad, yes or no, right or wrong – Just a chance for an earth friendly experience for body, mind, and spirit, for you and your planet. If you don’t take care of your body, the most magnificent machine you’ll ever be given, where will you live? With love and gratitude, Kayrn”
She is right about taking care of the body, the most magnificent machine you’ll ever be given. And I truly can appreciate the culinary, intelligent devotion to good food for the body that the vegan way advises; I would enjoy meeting Kayrn and thank her for an exceptional place to eat. But who gave me this body is not the rotund Buddha that sits on his caboose that she displays throughout her restaurant. Veganism is not True Spirituality. Most of the vegan discipleship community prints books and magazines with religious and spiritual dogmas that only the vegan esoterics have attained. Indeed, “The term vegan was coined by Donald Watson in 1944 when he co-founded the British Vegan Society – it initially meant “non-dairy vegetarian,” although the membership also opposed the consumption of eggs – and in 1951 the society extended the definition of veganism to mean “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals.”
I agree. We should not exploit animals. But eating them is not exploitation. It is enjoying a good gift from the one who made them. This helps us understand that part of the problem with veganism is that it does in the heart what God forbids: “Claiming to be wise they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature (like in India where it is forbidden to eat a cow) rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:22-25).
Whenever animals are elevated above man, that is a sure sign of God’s “giving up” man to his idolatrous heart.
Veganism starves the soul because it does not point the way to the one who made all things for his glory, the one who sent Jesus Christ. It starves the soul because it preaches a false gospel that displaces Christ as the ultimate food for our lives (John 6).
But secondly, there is another way to dishonor God with food. Scripture also says, “Whatever you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31, and that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), and that you should put a knife to your throat if you are prone to over-eating (Prov. 23:2), and that gluttony is just as dishonoring and debilitating as drunkenness (Prov. 23:19-21), and that food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food but God will destroy them both (1 Cor. 6:12-13), and that gluttonous eating is not only dishonoring to the body but to others as well, because it says, “My insatiable appetite for food is more important to me than fellowship with you or with my Lord” (1 Cor. 11:17-34).
Like veganism, gluttony starves the soul because it does not point the way to the one who made all things for his glory, the one who sent Jesus Christ. Gluttony starves the soul because it preaches a false gospel that displaces Christ as the ultimate food for our lives (John 6).
Therefore, if you abstain from eating meat this Thanksgiving, do it to the glory of God because you know that God approves eating meat, but you choose not to because you’re trying to keep your body as healthy as possible. You do not believe that an ascetic approach to life is superior, nor do you believe that eating animals is a sin. But you choose a dietary approach to life that you believe will keep your body healthier for the long haul.
If you do eat meat this Thanksgiving, do it to the glory of God because you know that fattening your body is not nearly as satisfying as filling your heart with what God has done for you in Christ: “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). This means that you will not gorge yourself on the good food that God created to be eaten with thanksgiving. It really is hard to give thanks to God while you are destroying your body with over-eating and eating things that are truly harmful to the body.
Remember, whatever you do, it is God’s grace that sustains you and gives you what you need to survive. May you enjoy good food from him who has blessed it, and may you enjoy even more, his Son who said, when nearly starving to death, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
And now, I’m off to WV and will not post again until the first of December. It’s Deer Season!