Thankful to Whom?

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada, and whether you celebrate it today or in November, if you are anything like me and my family, you will probably spend Thanksgiving weekend gathered around a table filled with delicious food and surrounded by your family and friends. One of our Thanksgiving family traditions is taking turns going around the table sharing one thing we are thankful for.

Even though this year has brought its challenges, there are so many things to be thankful for. I am thankful for the good health of my family, the lives of my three children, my freedom, and a new job with Stand to Reason, just to name a few.

I recently found myself reflecting on what it means to be thankful. Thankfulness for something only makes sense if there is someone to be thankful to—thankfulness is always expressed towards other persons.

Think about the statement, “I’m loved!” It only makes sense if there is someone out there who loves you. Simply stating that you are loved without any reference to anyone is meaningless. The statement, “I’m loved” naturally leads to the question, “By whom?” Likewise, the statement, “I’m thankful” invites the obvious question, “To whom?”

For example, whom should I thank for the life of my unborn child? If this is only a material world, then there really isn’t anyone to thank. It would be a category error to “thank” my unborn child's impersonal genes, for the same reason it would be inappropriate to thank my car for getting me to work. We cannot thank objects in any meaningful sense. Moreover, if there really isn’t anyone to be thankful to, then why do I have this innate desire to be thankful? All natural desires find their fulfillment in reality. C.S. Lewis put it this way:

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (Mere Christianity

I believe the reason humanity desires to give thanks is that there is someone to give thanks to. So the next time you hear someone say, “I’m thankful”, be sure to ask, “To whom?”

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Tim Barnett

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