A recent Rasmussen poll found that fifty-three percent (53%) of Americans say they are more thankful this Thanksgiving than they were last year at this time. Digging a little deeper into the contents of the poll, I found a question about religion and thankfulness. The poll found that the plurality (41%) of adults say their religious faith is what they are most thankful for, after family and health. In other words, the thing that most adults are thankful for after their family and health is their religious faith. These findings in the poll point to a sharp distinction between religious faith and biblical Christianity. The first commandment says that there shall be no other gods before the one true God. Clearly, from the results of this poll, family and health occupy the place of most importance to most Americans. While it is important to interpret polls carefully and look closely at the way questions are stated, this result resonates with the trend of American culture. Our religion is something that serves us and satisfies what we want. The immediate, in this case health and family, are those things that truly dominate our lives. These things hold the place of first importance, a place that God reserves for himself alone. Health and family are good things, but they must not surpass fidelity to God as the very core of what is important in life.
Thanksgiving Day marks the beginning of the holiday season. This time of year is a mixture of emotional ups and downs. Folks are happy to give and receive gifts, but they are also worried about how they will pay for these same gifts. People look forward to seeing family and friends, but then are reminded of all the personal issues they have with these same family and friends. Parties and celebrations abound, but these occasions are colored by hangovers and other manifestations of sensual indulgence. Church attendance will spike upwards at Christmas, but will quickly fall back to normal levels in January.
At least one reason for this trend is reflected in the Rasmussen poll that analyzes our thankfulness. For the vast majority of Americans, something or someone other than God dominates their lives. It is important for Christians to consider if we have followed the culture in this. Is something other than God the core value that dominates your life? What you are thankful for reveals the attitude of your heart. You are like the world–actually you are loving the world–if God is just one of the things that your mind tallies up in a list of things to for which to be thankful. God is not interested in sharing space with anything or anyone other than himself. This doesn’t mean you can’t be thankful for the good things God brings to you, but God must be unique. He must be first in your gratitude and affections. Everything else, including health and family, should be on another list entirely. It is not a good sign when God is added to the things we are grateful for about life.