A friend recently called me to task for not updating this blog recently… What can I say? I promised that my life, my family, and my ministry would be more important than blogging! I guess you could call me honest! Anyways, there are still a couple of projects that still demand my attention, so I’m publishing one of my favorite Thanksgiving-themed pastoral newsletter articles I wrote originally in 2000. A version of this appeared in my new church’s November newsletter.
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I love playing the board game, Monopoly. I like the way this game helps to teach my girls about handling and counting money, making change, and thinking ahead. And if I just happen to smirk a little bit with a sense of glee as they head towards my hotel on Boardwalk, who can blame me, right? It’s just a game.
I actually read a book about playing Monopoly last week. It was a small, “insiders” book called The Monopoly Companion and I breezed through it in just a couple of nights before bed. I found interesting trivia like there were only three railroads that went into Atlantic City in the 1930s (Pennsylvania, Reading, B&O) and that the ‘Shortline’ was a bus company. Also, that Marvin Gardens is actually a pretty ritzy place outside of the city and is actually misspelled on the gameboard (It‘s Marven Gardens). I also found out that the ‘Chance’ cards usually will send you somewhere else on the board and the ‘Community Chest’ cards will most likely give you money you had no way of counting on.
I read how playing Monopoly properly is to try and squeeze your opponents out of their money as quickly as possible. I learned that you should never make loans, never let anyone change the rules by putting money on the ‘Free Parking’ space or try to talk you into doubling earnings when you land on ‘GO’ because those things just make the game longer and drag out the bankruptcies that are the whole object of the game. Be thankful when you’re the winner. Be thankful that you didn’t go bankrupt.
As we approach Thanksgiving, especially as a Christian, I wonder how many of us are approaching this holiday the same way we are taught to approach Monopoly: Be thankful for the good stuff you get and the good that happens to you… or for the bad that doesn’t.
We do it all the time don’t we? An earthquake rocks the west coast and those of us in the east thank God that we don’t live there. We hear of violence in the streets of Jerusalem and we condemn them for being so ungodly and pray a prayer of thankfulness that we live in a fairly peaceful country. Or we hear that our President or our neighbor has been caught in sin, and we rage with righteous anger out loud while secretly breathing a prayer of thanks that we have never been caught in our sins.
Most of us only express thankfulness to God in the matters that have no real spiritual significance. We’re thankful when the other team loses the baseball game and our team wins. We’re thankful we beat that guy in the wheelchair to the closest parking space. We’re thankful that thousands of people lost money so that we could ‘win’ the lottery. We’re thankful that farmers aren’t making as much money so that our milk can be a nickel cheaper. Who cares about those people anyway!
That’s not the Christian idea of giving thanks… that’s the American culture idea of ‘getting ahead’ and ‘looking out for number one.’ That’s the Monopoly idea of get them before they get you. Is that the best Christianity has to offer? Is that what it means when we are told in Scripture to follow Christ?
This Thanksgiving, let’s change this around, shall we? Let’s begin by thanking God that he loves us…. As well as all those others around us as well. And let’s look at those many blessings that we are counting, and realize that God only gave them to us so that he could use us to give them out to others with greater need. Let’s be thankful that He chooses to trust us with HIS wealth and trusts us to use it to help others.
For you see, in the ‘game’ of living everyday life, we Christians are not supposed to be the landlords greedily trying to bankrupt those around us, but rather we are supposed to be the ‘Community chest’ cards… offering the hope of sharing our blessings to those around us. And THEN we will truly be giving thanks!