God's Blessing Game
Every year at Thanksgiving I'm reminded of the holiday's origin, the Jewish
Feast of Tabernacles. It was the crowning event in Israel's cycle of fall feasts that
also included Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It was a celebration of the harvest,
of God's mercy in forgiving their sins for another year, and a remembrance of
the time when He lived among them in the wilderness, setting them apart as His
When the Pilgrims had experienced their first successful harvest in the New World, they decided to give thanks for the Lord's
provision, even though half of them had died in the year since their arrival.
Inviting the neighboring natives to join them, they held a three-day
celebration patterned after their knowledge of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Here's How It All Began
The Jews were about to enter the Promised Land. The Lord had
Moses tell them to set aside a tithe (1/10th) of their production each year and
bring it, along with all their other voluntary offerings, to the place He would
choose for them to worship Him. They were to bring their tithes there and eat
them in a gigantic feast. Think of it, 1/10th of all the lambs, goats and
cattle born that year, 1/10th of the grain, vegetables and fruit from through
out the land, breads and cakes and barrels of wine. Everyone in Israel came to Jerusalem to celebrate. Everyone cooked their
favorite dish. It was the biggest "pot luck" dinner ever. The sounds
of laughing and singing and the aroma of exotic foods cooking filled the air
for a whole week as the people gave thanks to God for blessing them.
Every third year they gave their tithes to the Levites and stayed home. This
assured that there was always enough to take care of the Levites (who were the
teachers and doctors and lawyers and had no land to till) and all the widows
and orphans, the indigent, and the aliens among them. Each year they celebrated
His provision and the Lord blessed them with more so that their abundance grew.
He commanded them to do this every year so that He could "bless them in
all the works of their hands." (Deut. 14:22-29) By setting the
Lord's share aside and then using it to give thanks to Him, they found that
each year their blessing increased.
But after their return from the Babylonian captivity, the Lord caught them
cheating Him. He warned them that they had put themselves under a curse because
they weren't setting aside their tithes properly. They were giving the Lord
their worst, not their best, and even this was being done resentfully as if it
was a great burden. Because of this they were not being blessed but were
working harder and harder for less and less. "Return to me and I'll
return to you," He told them. "Bring the whole tithe into the
storehouse. Test me in this and see if I don't throw open the flood gates of
Heaven and pour our so much blessing that you won't have room enough for
it." (Malachi 1 & 3:7-10)
And that's always the way it is with the Lord. No hard feelings, no
resentment, just return to Him and He'll return to you. All is forgiven, and
His mercies are new every morning. We can always begin right where we are and
He'll respond as if nothing had ever happened.
The Rules Of The Game
So by these two passages we learn the rules of what I call
God's Blessing Game. We show our gratitude by giving God His due and He blesses
us with more. We increase our giving and He increases His blessing, allowing us
to give still more. And on it goes. But when we become stingy or resentful and
try to short-change God, then the blessings are curtailed accordingly.
The Israelites proved beyond all doubt that by following the rules of the
game they could win every time. And they demonstrated the futility of cheating.
But is there any New Testament version of God's Blessing Game? Of course there
is, because God is the same yesterday today and forever. Luke 6:38 tells
us "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down,
shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the
measure you use, it will be measured to you." Show a little gratitude
and get a little blessing. Show a little more and the blessings increase. The
more generous we become the more abundant our blessings will be. Paul gave us
the ultimate outcome in 2 Cor. 9:11. You'll
be made rich in every way so you can be generous on every occasion. Every
time we feel moved to help someone out, we'll find the money's there to do it.
And it will all result in thanksgiving to God.
Treasure In Heaven
Lots of people overlook the last half of this promise, and
find that because they do it doesn't come true. The Lord didn't promise to make
us rich so that we could have bigger houses and more cars, He promised to make
us rich so that we could be more generous. We're supposed to be a channel, not
a cistern. The blessings we receive are supposed to flow through to others, not
stop with us. The riches we store up are for Heaven, not Earth. Good thing too,
because here they only last a little while, but there they last forever. (Matt.
6:19-20) This is God's Blessing Game. It's a game that He developed and
that everyone can win. The rules are clear and don't ever change. We establish
the level of blessings we'll receive by the gratitude we express through our
generosity. The Lord loves a cheerful giver and will reward us accordingly.
So the Pilgrims decided to take a lesson from the Israelites. They took the
little they had and gave thanks, inviting the natives in their midst to join
them to show their generosity. In return the Lord blessed them. And so it
began. To one degree or another, it's been going on ever since and look how
we've been blessed. Americans are the richest people on Earth.
It's Our Little Secret
It's a testimony to God's understanding of the human
condition that the Thanksgiving Holiday's roots have been obscured. You see, he
longs to bless us but the rules of the game require an expression of gratitude
on our part. By allowing Thanksgiving to be perceived as a secular holiday and
not a religious one He can receive our thanks without risking the same demand
that He be taken out of the loop as there is for Christmas. There's no public
outcry by the pagans, no suits by the ACLU, and no attacks by other religions
against its origin. Very few people are even aware of the Biblical roots of
this "American" holiday. But being devout Christians, the Pilgrims
knew Who they were thanking, and why. You and I do, too. It's our little
secret. Ours and God's.
I pray that your Thanksgiving was a happy one, and that through out the
holidays you'll remember the rules of God's Blessing Game and play to win.