In the US, we are celebrating Thanksgiving. It is a day for… giving thanks.
In general, I am encouraged by the opportunity to experience contentment and appreciation!
But… sometimes it seems like we’re grateful for comfort, pleasure, and even self-indulgence.
So with all the attention on gratitude, I wanted to raise the question: what good is giving thanks?
Scott Swain provides the following reflections:
An outline of moral theology based on Titus 2:11-14
The grace that saves also trains. But the order here matters: God trains those he saves; he doesn’t save those he trains.
Grace trains us to deny vice and to cultivate virtue. This is the form that the Christian life takes between its inauguration by grace and its consummation in glory.
The life that grace trains us to cultivate may be summarized under three virtues, three forms of free and excellent human action: piety, justice, and moderation.
These three virtues represent free and excellent forms of action with respect to three objects of action: piety concerns what we owe God, justice concerns what we owe our neighbors, moderation concerns what we owe ourselves in the use and enjoyment of creaturely goods.
Cultivating virtue is not the supreme and final good of the Christian life. Our supreme and final beatitude lies in seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ at his appearing. The entirety of the Christian life is ordered by and to this crowning good.
Titus 2:11-14 provides a useful outline for moral theology because it can subsume the Ten Commandments and the double love command (under our duties to God and neighbor), the Lord’s Prayer (under hope), and teaching about food, wealth, sex, etc. (under moderation).
Here’s the application for Thanksgiving: moderation is opposed to false asceticism. God gives us all good things (food, wealth, sex, etc) to enjoy. But pious, right enjoyment of all good things is ordered to the enjoyment of God and the mutual enrichment of our neighbors.
In Augustinian terms: we use all good things as means to our supreme enjoyment of God, not vice-versa. We receive all good things in order to share them, not merely for our private pleasure at the expense of our neighbors.
(And, yes, feasting, like fasting, is consistent with moderate use of creaturely blessings. So eat that extra slice of pumpkin pie today, with gratitude and joy in your heart unto the Lord.)
What can we be more grateful for than God? And God’s grace?
But notice: gratitude for God and his grace has a purpose: that we might turn away from evil and pursue what is good. And that’s worth giving thanks for!
What are you grateful for?
And how is gratitude transforming your life?