Feasting On Guilt

One of the more ancient cultural artifacts we've retained today is the feast. It's just not a celebration without a full table and full stomachs. And no modern holiday represents this tradition better than Thanksgiving.

While other holidays can get murky amid their consumerist contrivances and religious rivalries, Thanksgiving maintains the simplicity of a feast: being thankful with family and food. People can argue about other holiday symbols all day: Santa Claus or the baby Jesus, the Easter bunny or a cross. But no one can argue that the centerpiece of Thanksgiving is a turkey dinner. Even as Black Friday rears its ugly head, more people are in their dining rooms on that Thursday than probably any other holiday.

Imagine yourself at that table, quite literally gobbling down the turkey and stuffing. The pleasant conversations naturally shift to everyone sharing what they're thankful for. Eventually, someone will say, "I'm thankful that we can enjoy this huge meal!"

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At this point, most of us would feel guilty. We would feel guilty because we've all heard someone say before—perhaps in this very setting, "How can you eat like that knowing there are starving children in Africa?" And unlike the food in your belly, you can't simply retch away your guilt.

This is a curious thing to me. Because, as I see it, guilt implies remorse for wrongdoing. I suppose one could argue that the sin being committed is gluttony. However, that would imply that God was only kidding when he prescribed feasts in Leviticus.

I think the more common point to be made here is that it is a sin of omission. We live in luxury while the world is haunted by hunger. Is it our fault that the children of Ethiopia drink from mud puddles? No. But to the person who knows the right thing to do and doesn't do it, this is sin (James 4:17). So how does the guilt of inaction translate feasting into fasting? I honestly don't know.

We are called to thank God in all circumstances—this doesn't exclude those of our neighbors (1 Thessalonians 5:18). And if we can't be thankful to God amid that knowledge, what makes us believe we are thankful at all? Do we trust his judgment in the world? Or do we wallow in ungratefulness and question the management of things much bigger than ourselves? This doesn't mean we ignore the plight of the poor.  But it does mean that we don't ignore celebrating God’s provision.

Thank God. And eat some turkey.