So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
– Ephesians 5:15-20
No I’m not chicken. If you know the book of Ephesians you will know that Paul launches into a profound teaching about husbands and wives in the verses immediately following these above. It take some explaining to 20th century ears in order not to dismiss those verses out of hand. While I usually take 10 to 15 verses and focus on them for a week, this week I’ll take only 5. We’ll delve into the husband/wife issues next week. Or better yet in the New Year. I’ll take up matters of Christmas next week.
With these verses in mind, I have a confession to make. I am not always thankful. I’m very much like Corrie Ten Boom whose sister Betsy cajoled her while in a Nazi concentration camp to thank God for everything…even the fleas in their barracks. Corrie did not want to thank God for the fleas. But Betsy, on the basis of this verse, “…give thanks for everything…” insisted. Corrie relented and discovered later that there was a great blessing in that action.
But when I get criticized, or an error or flaw is pointed out in my life, I am not inclined to thank God. I am more likely to become defensive or sullen. When things don’t go my way – from my favorite team losing to a financial or health reversal – I am not inclined to give thanks.
But there are those words: “Give thanks for everything…” Doesn’t leave much of a loophole for carping, grumbling, or erupting in anger. And as if that isn’t enough, we are to give thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus. We are to do this as though Jesus himself was uttering the prayer of thanks.
Martin Luther speaks of theologians of glory as those who call bad good and good bad. He says that the theologian of the cross calls things what they are. One way to understand those words has to do with fleas, criticism, setbacks, and difficulties. We think of them as bad. But these are messengers from God to remind us that we have no lasting city on this earth. We need God every day every hour. When the setbacks occur we can thank God that he is faithful and good. We can rejoice in him and his unfailing love whatever the circumstance may be. Thank God for that!