Martin B. Copenhaver
"Give thanks in all circumstances." - 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
Paul concludes his first letter to the Thessalonians with a flurry of reminders, commands and blessings, including, "Give thanks in all circumstances." That seems to imply there are circumstances in which thanksgiving does not come easily to us. So what kind of circumstances does he have in mind? When do we need to be reminded—or perhaps even commanded—to give thanks?
Obviously, it can be difficult to give thanks in a time of tragedy or deprivation.
But, ironically, we also may need the reminder to give thanks when things are going well and we have so much. In this season, today especially, we are asked to count our blessings. Take stock of all you have been given. Such an exercise does not in itself prompt thankfulness, however, because thankfulness has no direct correlation to abundance. If there were such a correlation, if we were given some we would be somewhat thankful, and if we were given more we would be more thankful. But it doesn't work that way, does it?
We live in a time of unprecedented abundance, but that has not led to greater thankfulness. In fact, our time is marked by an extraordinary sense of entitlement. In other words, we have much and, for the most part, have concluded that we deserve all that we have.
So Paul's words, "Give thanks in all circumstances," are a reminder, not just to those who are experiencing hardship, where the blessings are few. His reminder also is for those of us who live amid bounty, where the blessings are so easily taken for granted. We need the reminder no less than others, and in some ways we need the reminder more.
"Give thanks in all circumstances"—when we seem to have so little and, yes, even when we obviously have so much.
My prayer is simple: "Thank you." Or, to elaborate: "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor of Village Church, United Church of Christ, in Wellesley, Massachusetts. A new edition of his book, Living Faith While Holding Doubts has just been published by Pilgrim Press.