Take stock of what you have. This is sound advice in many situations. If you find yourself unexpectedly lost, panic and fear are usually the first reactions. Experts say the best thing to do is stop, gain control of yourself, and take stock of what you have, then make a plan. When planning a new project, take stock of what you have. Jesus himself gives us this sound advice when He says to “count the cost” before starting a building project (Luke 14:28). When we take stock of what we have, most of us find we have more than what we thought.
Also think about where you got it all to begin with. All of us have been the recipients of many gifts during our lives. We all began life as small naked infants come into a cold, bright, noisy world. Someone gave us blankets, clothes, warmth, food, love and care, then eventually an education, told us about Jesus, showed us how to live in the world and be productive. Even when (we think) we are self-sufficient, we have also received millions of gifts, large and small, over the course of our lives. The most important ones are gifts of time, energy, attention and love that others have given to us.
Ultimately, though, all of these gifts have come from God our loving creator through the means of other people. God blessed Jacob by making his flocks increase (Genesis 30). God blessed Potiphar and everything he owned because of Joseph (Genesis 39:5-6). God gave bread to the Israelites in the desert for 40 years (Exodus 16) as well as clothes and general health (Deuteronomy 8:4). God blessed the home of Obed-Edom in everything (2 Samuel 6:11). There are many more miracles of feeding, healing, delivering and resurrecting all through the Bible. All came from the generous God we trust in.
After listing some of the millions of blessings we receive from God, the Small Catechism wonderfully summarizes the Bible teaching with these words from the explanation to the First Article of the Apostles Creed, “All this He does out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all of this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey him.”
November is known for Thanksgiving, which simply means Giving Thanks. Except by our sinful human natures. Our sinful human natures like to focus what we are missing and how we “deserve” so much more. Things like better health, more money, a more functional family, an easier life. Focusing on what we lack and think we deserve leads easily to complaining, fear, ingratitude and despair. Such an attitude can lead to a life of desperation. Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks both begin by taking stock of what we already have. The most important thing we have is a God, named Jesus, who loves us unconditionally, repeatedly forgives, restores and supplies us.
The main reason we give thanks is because we have a God who gives generously. “All this He does out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy”. A side effect of Giving Thanks is we become more like the God we depend on. We become more generous. We learn to share and not to hoard. We grow in faith and not in fear. The story is told of an old wheat farmer who gave generously to church and community, yet always seemed to have more than enough. When asked how he did this he replied, “God shovels the blessings into my barn and I shovel them out, but His shovel is a lot bigger than mine”. As you embrace the coming November (and December) take stock of what you have, some of the millions of gifts you have received in your life. Remember where it all came from and make the coming months a true time of Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks.