Four years ago this month my heart was burdened, as Thanksgiving approached, about those who had little or no spiritual appetites. As a pastor who works very hard to prepare for every service, it is nothing short of mystifying to me why so many pass up multiple opportunities for spiritual growth. For years it gnawed at me. But, I finally realized that the answer was quite simple. The answer is that some simply do not have the appetite for spiritual growth that others have. It is very similar to why some fill their plates, devour their food and reach for seconds while others hardly eat anything at all. It is all tied to the appetite of the person. My heart grieves for those who waste opportunity after opportunity neglecting what Jesus called “That good part, which will not be taken away” in Luke 10:42.
Allen Raynor Weblog: Thanksgiving Appetites: Varying in Types and Degrees
(Nov. 25, 2013)
Well it is Thanksgiving time again! Giving thanks is both a privilege and a discipline for believers. It is a privilege because we get to receive the joy and honor of doing it and a discipline because we need to do it whether we feel like it or not! In several places in both the New and Old Testaments there are imperatives to “Give thanks.” We need never treat these as optional. But, as we mature in our faith, we will see that the more discipline oriented aspects fade into the sense of delight and privilege we feel at being able to give God thanks!
The holiday of “Thanksgiving” itself is being lost little by little in some very subtle, and not so subtle, ways. Retailers have little to sell at Thanksgiving compared to the much more lucrative Christmas season. Apart from food items and maybe a few decorations there is little about Thanksgiving that translates into dollars. Instead, they have “cheapened” the holiday by making it a springboard for Christmas. For several years now we have experienced the phenomenon known as “Black Friday” where retailers open ridiculously early offering great deals and incentives on Christmas merchandise. I have often complained that it seems they are sending a message that “We cannot wait to get Thanksgiving out of the way and move on to ‘greener’ (no pun intended) pastures.” But now, it is even worse. In the last few years, more and more are actually opening on Thanksgiving Day! They reason that some want to get out of the house and away from cooking, away from football, away from irritating relatives, etc. and would love the opportunity to shop. Sadly, the executives making these decisions are cozy and warm on Thanksgiving Day with their families while lower level employees with little or no say in the matter are having to for-go time with their families in order to work generating profits for the guys at the top. It is yet another example of what our culture loves to do and that is push the margins and move the goalposts if they do not like where they are located. And it further illustrates 1 Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
It is the irony of ironies, that we could have a holiday called “CHRISTmas” and then make it about ourselves instead of Christ! And equally as ironic that we could have a holiday about giving thanks to God and also make that about ourselves! On the surface the problem seems to be about gluttony of food and of drink and gluttony of entertainment(s). But I think there is an underlying spiritual reality which causes these other things. These are mere symptoms of a far greater and deeper problem.
Not everyone will eat a lot this Thanksgiving. Those with hardy appetites will eat the most, followed by those with strong to moderate appetites, followed by those with average appetites, then those with smaller appetites. Finally there will be those who eat virtually nothing because they have little or no appetite, for various reasons, including sickness. Back a few years ago a lady in the church I pastored at the time had experienced declining health and was ultimately placed in a nursing home. As her health declined further she got to the point she would not hardly eat a thing. It turns out after a little research at the time that, medically speaking, I discovered this is a natural prelude to death. People who are in process of dying have no appetite and food is totally unappealing to them. Concerned family members gather around and try and coax their loved one to eat through words of encouragement, bringing in special food that they knew was once loved by the family member, or even holding a spoon to the person’s mouth asking them to open and take a bite, much like would be done with a child. But the underlying problem is that there simply is no appetite! Food that smells, looks, and tastes good to people with healthy appetites is nauseating to persons without healthy appetites.
Spiritually speaking, there are people everywhere that are not hungry. They have no appetite at all for spiritual food. Family, friends, church members etc. try and coax them to eat. It may be special events at the church, the allure of a new program/ministry, new pastor, revival meeting, Bible study, etc. but nothing appeals to the appetite they do not have. Frustration often is felt by those trying to get others to eat thinking they can somehow convince them of their need to eat, or thinking if they just offer an appealing sounding “dish” then they will come and eat and drink like there is no tomorrow. But it probably is not going to happen because there simply is no appetite. We all have our favorite foods, but few of our own favorite foods sound good when we have the stomach flu. The sickness has killed our appetite temporarily. Spiriual appetites are killed by the sickness/condition the Bible calls “sin.” In fact, sin is so serious that people are said to be “dead in their trespasses and sins.” (Eph. 2:1-10) Sin was such a bad sickness, it actually took our “spiritual” lives from us while Satan laughed and gloated.
As Christians gather to give true “thanksgiving,” “honor,” and “glory” to God for his abundant provisions others will enjoy the externals but miss what it is really all about. They will do this because they have not the spiritual appetite that others have for the things of God. This is not meant to be discouraging, but more than anything is meant to be a reminder of the responsibilities we have at the point of showing others why we personally celebrate Thanksgiving. Lost family members are watching you more closely than you may realize. Be a good witness to them in the days ahead. Also, please remember if they have no spiritual appetite then there is nothing they feel they need to satisfy. We can pray for them that God will create an appetite and we can thank God that we have an appetite and that we can be satisfied by God’s own provision!
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor