The following article appeared in our church’s weekly Pastor’s Desk. This is a very minor expansion of that same article.
Over the past few weeks there has been an interesting and enjoyable-to-read social media (ie Facebook) challenge floating around. Labelled ‘The Thankfulness Challenge’ participants, and those tagged, are encouraged over five days to share 3 things daily for which they are thankful for.
As a Pastor it brings me wonderful joy to be able to read what people have been sharing—particularly those related to their spiritual walk or understanding of scripture. But while this has been wonderfully encouraging, I’ve been thinking through how to encourage us all to exercise some caution, especially for those participating in the challenge.
First, remember that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9) and can take any good thing and twist it to make it evil. So while this challenge has been good for some to pause and reflect on what they are thankful for, it can also be twisted to boast of how good our lives are. I’m glad that none of what I have read so far falls into this, but it’s a warning to heed.
Second, from what I can gather from my reading of scripture most thanks giving is related directly to either the gospel, to God and his character and nature, in the loving service of and prayer for others, or is called for within these contexts. The Thankfulness Challenge can sometimes assume this, making the sharing of thanksgiving something self-driven rather than Gospel-driven. The dangers of assuming the gospel are pretty big, and the best way to avoid it is to constantly preach it to ourselves.
Third, scripture is also filled with praise and thanksgiving during difficult circumstances. Most of the thanksgiving I have read has been primarily for positive things. That’s great! But let us also be encouraged to dig deep into the well of grace that informs our praise and thanksgiving in the deepest of trials and temptations.
Finally, tagging people to share their thankfulness might be motivated by positive encouragement but it might be received as guilt-driven, especially if they do not take up the challenge. Tagging someone not only means that your post appears on your wall, but also appears on their wall for they and all their friends to see. A lack of response might call into question how much thankfulness that person shows, and might encourage some out of guilt or the desire not to be seen as ’non-thankful’/’non-participatory’ to partake in the challenge. So a good intention ends up ill received.
With those cautions in mind, what things can you be thankful for? Why not share in person over a cup of tea/coffee as well as Facebook.