Self-absorption may be the reason for the season these days. Contemporary culture celebrates and at times worships the unholy trinity of "me, myself, and I". Not that sinful humans haven't always elevated self to idol status in our priority systems. Still, ours is the new world of exponential living, complex and fast. We're discovering new and advanced ways to explore this new "selfie" world. Eyes lifted toward heaven enable mere humans to resist the lures of self-indulgence and give thought to the things revealed by heaven. The place of others in our lives is one of those revealed things. While we're giving thanks perhaps we should demonstrate some gratitude for the people who influence and bless us.
How can looking up instruct and guide us to a more biblical view of self and others? Shouldn't raised eyes create blind spots to the things of earth? Yes, the up-look should hinder our obsession with these lower realities, one of them being our egocentric focus. Just the same, fixing our eyes on heaven gives our attention to the things of God. It is a pivot point for instruction in God's ways. The Psalmist prayed, "Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things and give me life in your ways" (Psalm 119:37, ESV). You see, looking to heaven is the posture of personal humility. When humble, our learning systems are activated. Again, from the Psalmist---"He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way" (Psalm 25:9, ESV).
His ways and what is right involves a transposition of the way we typically value self and others. The place of others in our beliefs and actions is a significant biblical theme. Make note of several examples---
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12: 10, ESV
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to
Romans 15: 1, ESV
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
1 Corinthians 10:4, ESV
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant
than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the
interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4, ESV
And, then finally, the point: when others are valued in a biblical, spiritual sense, they will then become a significant part of our thanksgiving.
Any list of genuine blessings will include many names and faces. Naturally, many of these fellow humans would qualify for our list of most troublesome life realities as well. Human nature is complex and often leaves us scratching our heads in wonder. Still, there are many Bible references about giving thanks for the people who enrich and bless us. This is especially true in the letters of the Apostle Paul---
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in
1 Corinthians 1: 4, ESV
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.
Philippians 1: 3, ESV
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.
Colossians 1: 3, ESV
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.
1 Thessalonians 1:2, ESV
These four are just a sampling. Most of Paul's Epistles included expressions of thanks and prayer for his recipients. He valued them and communicated that to them. There is, as well, instruction about having a thankful spirit toward others. The Apostle knew the spiritual disciplines of gratitude for the people who so influenced his life, practiced those principles, and taught them under the stewardship of his leadership. His example teaches us at one level; his instruction at another.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be
made for all people.
1 Timothy 2: 1, ESV
Thanksgiving for all people is perhaps the point. An egocentric culture places others in a secondary, less important segment of life experience. The "selfie" trends isolate many of us on secluded islands with little meaningful human touch. The experts over in the Psychology Department warn that loneliness is the harsh bottom line of our artificially connected world. In some ways we are the most connected populations in human history. Underneath the social media pretenses, we are actually disconnected. The influence and touch of others is often a distant dream rather than a close reality.
Jesus was asked about the most important commandments. He answered this trick question with great clarity. Matthew wrote it this way---
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great
commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first
commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On
these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 22: 35-40, ESV
Evidently other people matter. Maybe we should acknowledge them, thank God for them, and pray for them.
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