The Common Good

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

Imagine. You pack up your family, your kin, and tribe, leave the singular home you have ever known with only what you can carry, chased by an army that wants to kill you. You find yourself facing a deep Red Sea with the army at your back and you do not have a boat. Miraculously, the sea parts and you and yours escape. Escape to what? A desert wilderness.

Imagine you are living in the wilderness. No house. No way to store food. Divine intuition tells you that your daily provision will come each day. Morning by morning a new blessing will come, but only enough for that day. There will not be enough to store. The food is perishable. Miraculously, everyday bread from heaven comes. Time passes. Millennia pass.

Imagine. An itinerant preacher teaches his followers to pray for what they need for only a day: "Give us this day our daily bread." This same preacher, having compassion on multitudes of people that followed him, healed their sick and, with a blessing upon five loaves of bread and two fish, fed 5,000 men along with women and children. Whether the miracle was a purely supernatural multiplication or a more ordinary decision in each present human heart toward generosity is a mystery. Provision is the point. Time passes. Millennia pass.

Today, in this season of Thanksgiving, we find ourselves living in the richest nation that the world has ever seen at one of the most difficult economic moments that this nation has seen. At the same time, we hear the news that 700,000 children living in the United States are hungry. We look beyond our shores to see 1.4 billion human beings living in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.25 a day.

Yet, biblical wisdom teaches: "give thanks in all circumstances: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1Thessalonians 5:18). Biblical wisdom is more radical still when it says: "giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20). Why ought we to give thanks in and for hard economic times, for the poverty we see around us both far and near?

We give thanks in faith believing that there is a God who provides, who is able to give us the generosity of spirit to be the conduit of that provision. We give thanks for a moment of crisis that calls us to question a value system built on the sandy foundation of the acquisition of stuff, a crisis that presents us with a moment of truth that requires us to decide whether our faith is in banks, stocks, 401Ks, the nation, and its military. Or, is our faith in a wondrous miracle working God who "by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20)?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

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