Two Secrets For A Happy Thanksgiving

 

Proverbs 30:7-9

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings. They’re not promises, they’re not law and they’re not Gospel. They’re looking at the world from the perspective of God and His holy people. Looking at everyday reality and saying, “This is how things usually work.” If a comedian is funny, it’s probably because he’s looked at the world and simply pointed out things that are true but you never looked at them that way before. Like Jerry Seinfeld talking about Pop Tarts: He was explaining how to write a joke to the NY Times—”How did they know there would be a need for a frosted, fruit-filled, heatable rectangle in the same shape as the box it comes in? And with the same nutrition as the box it comes in. Two in the packet, two slots in the toaster—why two? One’s not enough, three’s too many and they can’t go stale ‘cause they were never fresh.” As they say, it’s funny because it’s true.ncpoptartboxIt’s the same basic idea in any artform, the more it reflects truth about the world, the better the art will be. Songs, movies, books, TV shows, paintings—the more we can relate to the work in our everyday life, the more it resonates with us, the more we trust the artist’s insights and message. Even if the message is about pop tarts.

Proverbs is like that, only instead of a comedian or some artistic renaissance-man making deep thoughts about the universe, it’s the Maker of the universe Himself. We’d be wise to pay attention, don’t you think?

This particular Proverb is really special though, it’s the only prayer in the book of Proverbs. It’s the only proverb teaching us how to pray. And you may have noticed a slight resemblance to the prayer that Jesus taught us when it mentions “daily bread.” I don’t think that’s an accident. In fact, look at the paragraph just above this prayer:

“Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?
(Pr 30:4)

Come on! How cool is that? Imagine teenage Jesus reading through the scriptures, knowing He’s the Son of God, looking for anything He can find out about His real dad—and He comes upon this! What is His name and what is the name of His Son? Proverbs is wisdom that fathers have written down to teach to their sons. So, I’m just guessing that the Son of God noticed this one. The only prayer in a book of practical wisdom.

It starts off with this line:
“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:

That’s a confident prayer tone. “Do not refuse me before I die.” It’s like a demand. Do you ever pray like that? Also, it’s like if you could only ask for two things from God, only two and nothing else ever—this proverb is saying these are the things you should probably ask for.

But, these aren’t the things we would have thought of, at all. If you could only ask God for two things, what would they be? Fame? Fortune? Long life? Wisdom? Peace on earth and good will toward men? Two more wishes?

See, that’s just it. God’s not a genie and this isn’t a fairy tale. This is the real actual world that God created and we’re His children that He dearly loves and He wants us to understand how to live a real, honest, satisfying life. Fame, fortune and pie in the sky wishes don’t have anything to do with the day to day life He wants for us.

But these two things do:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.

Keep falsehood and lies far from me. Keep me from being deceived. Do you remember who is called the “Father of Lies?” Do you remember who is called the “Great Deceiver?” When Adam and Eve lost everything in the garden it was because they were lied to, they were deceived, and they bought it. When Jesus teaches us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, He says “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” which is also translated as “Deliver us from the Evil One”—the enemy of truth, the Devil.

And his lies are always believable. He gets close enough to the truth that the joke is really funny. He paints a picture of a world that looks like it makes perfect sense to disobey God and risk death so you can taste something forbidden and sweet. The packaging is almost irresistible—New Kellogg’s chocolate cream pie pop tarts, more delicious than ever—we buy the box and rip into it, only to find it’s the same pasty, stale, non-nutritive food varnish that we’ve been deceived into buying before. But we still love them, we eat box after box, rotting our teeth, storing sugar as fat, destroying our pancreas, and slowly starving ourselves to death by eating counterfeit food. We eat up deception like candy.

So, yeah, we need to pray that God will keep the Devil’s lies far from us. The Devil’s lies and the lies of all the other liars. You know why lies are dangerous? Here’s a hint, it’s not because we know they’re lies. Lies are dangerous because we’re so prone to believe them. We even want to believe them if they support our particular opinions or if they help us rationalize things we don’t want to change about ourselves. We’re lied to all day every day—by advertisers telling us that we’ll be happy and sexy if we buy their product, by politicians telling us that if we vote for them they’ll do all these great things and give us everything we want, by friends and family members who don’t want to hurt our feelings, and by enemies who pretend to be our friends who lie in order to take advantage of us. We need to pray that the Lord will keep us far from these lies or else we’ll believe them. We’re all pretty easy to deceive.

But the lies that other people tell us aren’t the most dangerous lies.

The truth is, we deceive ourselves more than anyone else ever will. The falsehood and lies that are the most soul rotting are the lies we tell ourselves. Those are the lies we are trying to drown out by eating our feelings with junk food. Or maybe your self medication doesn’t come packaged in a brightly colored rectangular box. Maybe yours comes in six packs, or wine bottles, or maybe you have to inhale it, or secretly search for it in a private browser, or try it on at a department store—we all have our things. Our things aren’t a big deal though, right? We could quit any time. One of the most subtle and destructive self deceptions is pretending like our things aren’t nearly as bad as other people’s things. I mean, we’re okay—but those other people, they’re just nasty and evil. We judge ourselves by our intentions but judge other people by their actions. I’m just gonna eat this piece of fruit, just taste it, one little bite, I don’t see why God would have a problem with it, I mean, He wants me to be happy, right? “You will not surely die,” says the serpent.

“Keep Falsehood and lies far from me.” “Deliver me from the evil one.”

[Nagging self doubts and self accusations]

What lies do you tell yourself? Do you tell yourself negative things? Man, I sure do. I’m lucky to go more then ten minutes before I remind myself that I’m overweight—so people probably don’t like me—so I’ll probably never succeed at anything. Do you have anything like that in your head? Nagging self doubts and self accusations. Maybe doubts that God really loves you, that He really forgives you—you know, because you keep doing the same stupid things over and over. We let the little voice in our head say the most horrible things and make us feel so small, so insignificant and alone. Like God’s not really gonna take care of us. There’s so many ways we lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves that we need this or need that to really be happy. We let the Devil focus our hearts on what other people have, success we wish we had, someone’s house, or wife, or husband, or children, or job—really, there’s nothing too big or too small or petty that we can’t turn it into an obsession that distracts us from the life that God has given us to live.

Discontentment is a way of looking at the world, it’s not about the things we envy or covet—it’s a lifelong habit of envying and coveting. If it wasn’t this particular house or car, it would be something else. We’re like a dog— we really only want it because it’s in someone else’s hands. We can’t be happy as long as they have it and we don’t. How often do we hear that someone got a big break in their job or career and we think, “Why can’t that happen to me!” Instead of being happy for them we feel sorry for ourselves. We stare at what other people have, and it robs us of all our joy, it robs us of the ability to be thankful for what God has given us. It’s all a lie, and it’s a lie we tell ourselves.

“Keep falsehood and lies far from me” that’s the first thing, what about the second? “give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”

When we ask for our daily bread, we are asking to have enough for today. Neither poverty nor riches, neither more or less than I need. Who would pray this? “Lord, please don’t give me too much good stuff!” Why would we ever pray such a thing?

He goes on to explain: “Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

When we have too much, we are tempted to think we don’t need God. America, the land of wealth and opulence, we pretty much ignore the Lord until something comes along and rocks our world—sickness, a hurricane, a presidential election—then we pray like a preacher who’s just been set on fire by a bunch of teenagers. We pray like we mean it.

When we have too much, we get used to having too much. We get greedy. We get jaded. We eat too much and make ourselves miserable. Thanksgiving is Thursday and most people won’t just eat a sensible portion of food. Louis CK says, “”I don’t stop eating when I’m full. The meal isn’t over when I’m full. It’s over when I hate myself.” That’s what most of us think of as Thanksgiving. It’s pretty much how we’re tempted to live the rest of our lives, too. We know if we do certain things we’ll be miserable but we do it anyway.

God put Adam and Eve in a Garden of “yes” with one tree of “no” and they couldn’t take their eyes off of it, and the Devil said, “Yeah, but look at that tree of “no.” She’s a beauty! Why would any of those trees even matter if you can’t have that one.

To be discontent is to open yourself up to sin and misery.

How much of what God has told us not to do basically comes down to “be satisfied with what I’ve given you and stop trying to take things from other people!”

How much of our sin is driven by an ungrateful attitude for what we have. Always wanting more, what someone else has, the grass is always greener somewhere else.

I can’t stand when people say they’re bored. We’ve always told our kids that they’re not allowed to be bored because boredom is a sin. What is boredom if it’s not complete contempt for the time that God has given you? Is there a better picture of the discontented heart than a whiney child saying they’re bored when they’re surrounded by a room full of toys, each toy given to the child as a gift of love with the desire to make the kid happy? When I hear people say they’re easily bored, it reminds of the look on my mom’s face one Christmas break when one of my brother’s was complaining that there wasn’t anything to do—he was sooo bored! She suggested that it might be fun to get all of his Christmas toys and throw them in the trash. It changed his perspective pretty quick.

There’s nothing uglier than childish discontentment. And the cure isn’t to get more of what you want. Every toy box proves that.

A man who has a million dollars thinks he just needs a million more. A man with a bowl of beans thinks he just needs a few more beans—enough for tomorrow. Discontentment lives in the heart. Discontentment doesn’t come from lack, it usually comes from abundance.

There is a cure for discontentment—it’s a thankful heart.

To be thankful for today’s bread is to live in the moment and enjoy today’s bread. Not worrying about whether you’ll have bread tomorrow.

[The cure for discontentment is a thankful heart.]

Remember the prayer is for God to give us our daily bread. If we are thankful to God for what we have today then we can trust that we’ll have enough for tomorrow. Thankful to God. Not rely on our own ability to earn bread or bake bread. See, that’s what happens when we have too much. We start relying on ourselves and we forget the Lord.

And if you have extra—give it away. Let someone else be thankful for it. Blessed to be a blessing! God gives us extra so we can share. It’s how we can teach ourselves to be less attached to stuff and more dependent on the Lord. “Otherwise, I may have too much and disown Him.’

The name for God in this prayer is significant. It’s “LORD” with all caps. It’s the personal name of God in the Old Testament. YHWH. It’s the name God gave Moses when He appeared in the burning bush and sent him to Pharaoh. It’s the covenant name of God that means “remember that I am the God who delivered you from slavery in Egypt.”

So, the prayer is “don’t give me too much or I will forget that You are the Lord who saved me.” Then he prays that he would have enough so that he isn’t tempted to steal and dishonor the name of the LORD. I think there’s a little attitude on this part of the prayer, too.

Think about it, it’s basically saying “If you don’t give me enough I’ll be forced to steal and make you look bad.” He’s also saying he doesn’t want to make the Lord look bad—on the other hand he doesn’t want to go hungry.

But to pray for daily bread implies that he wants to be hungry enough to appreciate his food. I’m always saying to the kids, “The secret ingredient is hunger.” Food always tastes better when you’re hungry.

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.

What does it look like to walk in truth, and not in self deception? It’s all about not listening to the lies of the devil, the lies we tell ourselves. Lies of shame and condemnation—selfishness, pettiness. It looks like Jesus on the cross where He gave us exactly what we need, Jesus rising from the grave and breathing the Holy Spirit into us, Jesus at the right hand of God the Father hearing our prayers and answering them. What do you need? What do you need today? Don’t worry about what you need tomorrow—He’ll take care of that tomorrow.

[Living in the moment] Here’s a little secret that might help you with this idea: tomorrow never comes, it’s always tomorrow. There’s only today. Now. Live in this moment. Be here. Be thankful for what God has given you in this moment. This is where God is meeting you. This is where His Spirit is giving you life. You have everything you need for this moment. Trust God and be thankful.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving. Many of us will have some time off to be with family and friends. There’s gonna be a lot of opportunities for conversations to go bad, for dinner rolls to be burnt, for little kids to annoy us by being too loud and bigger kids to annoy us by being on their phone and acting like they don’t want to be there. Some of us will be unhappy because someone is at the table that we wish hadn’t been invited, some of us will be sad because someone is missing from the table this year, some of us won’t have anywhere to go at all and we will be alone. But we don’t have to listen to the lies we tell ourselves that make us miserable—to wish for something more, to feel sorry for ourselves and rot in our discontentment.

Let’s do it different this year. The secret ingredient to make a great Thanksgiving is a thankful heart. Before you sit down at the table and say grace, try walking around the room showing grace to the people who are there. Put your phones away, take your headphones off, get down on the floor and play with the noisy kids for a while, then get back up and shove earplugs in your ears and drink a glass of wine. Remember the past but don’t get stuck in it. Plan for the future but don’t forget to live in this moment—it’s the only one we really have.

May you rest in the abundant mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for You and calls you to live in repentant joy receiving His salvation and new life. May you be thankful for all that the Lord has done and all that He have given us, both now and this week week, and always.

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us. For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea. We thank you, Lord.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ, We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends, We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve, We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play, We thank you, Lord.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity, We thank you, Lord.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice, We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places, We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord; in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, AMEN