感恩節不是一個比較的遊戲

By Jim Mathis

幾乎每個文化都有一個時間去慶祝豐收並感謝上帝又賜下一年的供應。在美國,感恩節可追溯到早期的殖民時期。雖然我們大多數人不是農民,許多人還是為了上帝給我們的供應,撥出時間向祂表達感恩。

然而在這個一年一度的節日裡有一個奇怪的現象:大家容易把「感恩」與比較混淆。例如我們常常聽到人們說:「我為我所擁有的感恩,因為許多人所擁有的沒有像我的那麼好。」或者「我為我有工作感恩,因為許多人都失業。」

雖然這些話似乎是表達感恩,但他們也似乎在說我們感恩,因為我們不像那些人。我心想:什麼時候慶祝感恩節變成比較的遊戲了?

感恩應該不是看我們的生活比一些其他的人好,而應該是無論我們處在什麼狀況都願意有知足的心且感到快樂──而不是與別人比較。

在感恩節這一天應該為一些使生命有價值的小事感恩。不僅為財物感恩,還有健康(或在不健康的當中仍有平安和盼望);我們所愛的朋友和家人;以及我們能運用所擁有的能力和天生的才幹去造福別人。往下看比我們不幸的人,或往上看比我們幸運的人──這都是不健康的心態。

感恩應該多看知足的心,而不是尋找在看起來比我們不幸的人。使徒保羅這麼說:「我無論在甚麼景況都可以知足,這是我已經學會了。我知道怎樣處卑賤,也知道怎樣處豐富;或飽足,或飢餓;或有餘,或缺乏,隨事隨在,我都得了祕訣」(腓立比書4章11-12節)

我知道在某些圈子裡,「知足」是一個醜陋的字眼。畢竟我們不是應該努力得到更多嗎?並不一定。耶穌告訴祂的跟隨者:「你們要謹慎自守,免去一切的貪心,因為人的生命不在乎家道豐富」(路加福音12章15節)。

另一方面,知足也不應與自滿混淆。其他與知足相關的字眼是快樂或平安。這與認識自己有關,對你自己是怎樣的人,能做什麼,有誠實的評價,而且知道你正在做你應該做的事。

對有些人而言,這是很難接受的話,然而這是很重要的。我們應該接受我們是怎樣的人,我們所處的位置,快樂地活著,對我們每吸一口空氣都感恩。尤其重要的是,感恩節應該是我們每年特別感謝上帝的時刻,因為祂讓我們存活、有能力去愛及關心彼此。

吉姆.馬提斯在堪薩斯州陸路公園市經營一家照相館。他的專長是商業和影劇界人像。他也經營一所攝影學校。他還寫了一本書「一般民眾的高度攝影表現」,那是一本有關數位攝影的書。他曾是一家咖啡店的經理,也曾是CBMC在堪薩斯州堪薩斯市和密蘇里州堪薩斯市的執行主任。

省思 / 討論題目
「感恩節」對你而言,有什麼意義? 誠實地說,當你感恩時--不論是在感恩節或任何其他時間--你對什麼事最感恩? 你是否曾和本文作者一樣認為感恩節是一場「比較遊戲」?即使如此,這有何不對?請解釋。 真正的感恩是對我們自己和我們周圍的環境,不論好壞,都知足。你對此有何看法?註:若你想看聖經中有關此主題的其他經文,請看以下經文:
詩篇30篇11-12節、75篇1節、92篇1-5節、100 篇1-5節;腓立比書1章3-6節;帖撒羅尼迦前書1章2-3節、5章16-18節

THANKSGIVING: NOT A GAME OF COMPARISONS
By Jim Mathis

Just about every culture has a time for celebrating the harvest and thanking God for another year’s provision. In the United States, Thanksgiving goes back to the early colonial times. Even though most of us are not farmers, millions of people still take time to show gratitude to God for providing for our needs.

There is a curious thing about this annual holiday, however: It has become easy to confuse “thanksgiving” with comparing. For instance, it is not uncommon to hear people say something like, "I am thankful for all I have because there are many people who do not have it as good." Or, "I am thankful that I have a job, because there are a lot of people who are unemployed."

While statements like these seem like expressions of gratitude, they also seema little bit like saying we are thankful that we are not like THOSE folks. I wonder: When did the observance of Thanksgiving Day become a game of comparisons?

Being thankful should not be about seeing how much better off we are than some other people. Instead, it should be about willingness to be content and happy with who we are and whatever state we find ourselves – not compared to someone else.

This day should be about being grateful for the small things that make life worth living. Not only material things, but also things like health (or having peace and hope in the midst of poor health); friends and family that we love; and the abilities and innate gifts that we possess that we can use for the benefit of others. Looking down on someone less fortunate than us- or looking up to people we consider more fortunate than we are- is never healthy.

Thankfulness should look a lot more like contentment than searching to find somebody that in some way appearsless fortunate than we are. The apostle Paul stated it this way: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11-12).

I realize “contentment” is considered a dirty word in some circles. After all, should we not always be striving for more?Not necessarily. Jesus told His followers, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15).

On the other hand, contentment should not be confused with complacency. Other words for contentment are happiness, or peace of mind. It has to do with knowing yourself, having an honest appraisal of who you are and what you can do, and knowing that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing.

For some people this is a hard statement, but it is essential nonetheless. We should accept who we are and where we are, be happy to be alive, and show gratitude for every breath we take. More than anything, Thanksgiving should be the time of year when we pause to give special thanks to God for being alive and having the ability to love and care for one other.

Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and operates a school of photography. Jim is the author of High Performance Cameras for Ordinary People, a book on digital photography. He formerly was a coffee shop manager and executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Reflection/Discussion Questions
What does “Thanksgiving” mean to you? Being honest, when you take time to be thankful – whether on Thanksgiving Day or at any other time – what kinds of things are you most grateful for? Have you ever thought about Thanksgiving Day being, as Mr. Mathis suggests, a “game of comparisons”? Even if it is, what is wrong with that? Explain your answer. How do you respond to the idea that true thanksgiving requires a willingness to be content with ourselves and the circumstances surrounding us, good or bad?If you would like to look at or discuss other portions of the Bible that relate to this topic, consider the following brief sampling of passages: Psalm 30:11-12, 75:1, 92:1-5, 100:1-5; Philippians 1:3-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, 5:16-18

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