The God Squad: Who do I thank for my blessings?
Q: Morning, Rabbi Marc, bless you and your day, and THANK YOU for all your wonderful, comforting wisdom over the years! My question for you always bothers me! I need to know when God gives me a request, a blessing, a help I didn't expect, who do I THANK?
Sometimes it is a small thing like getting the bathroom cleaned, is that my angel who helped me do that? Or a big thing like having one of the kids get a scholarship. Do YOU know the answer? Please HELP me figure out where I need to send my THANKSGIVING PRAYERS, PLEASE!!! And thank YOU!. Bless you for all you do and PLEASE keep it UP! -- (From T)
A: Dear T, thank you so much for your very kind and generous words. Let me begin by telling you that you have already answered your own question when you asked it. You understand that the good things in your life are gifts not acquisitions. They are things you are given, not things you have earned. This is the greatest wisdom you could have about the consequences of human happiness.
If what we have is a gift then what obviously follows is that we have an obligation to offer thanks for that gift to the bestower of the gift. To refuse or forget to give thanks is an act of selfishness. So whom do you thank? Well, there is an ascending list of thanks that are due. Religious folk follow this list up to God who is the source of all blessings, but the list begins, as you indicate in your question, with the people closest to the gift. The people who care for you and love you are the first to deserve your thanks but they are not the last. Who created them? Who put you in a place here on earth where other people care for you? That ultimate source for blessing is God. God is the final and ultimate source of blessings and so God is the final and ultimate object of thanks.
You may think that thanking God for your blessings is all you have to do to fulfill your debt of thankfulness but that is not so. One of the strange sins that religious people make is to go straight to God without thanking all those between God and you who have executed and expedited your blessings. It is like thanking the chef without thanking the waiters. It is like reading only the last chapter of a book. So let us all try with extra faith and love to thank the people closest to us who look after us and protect us before we thank God. That way if we delay thanking God for a bit, it will not matter when we get around to saying, Psalm 100:4-5 KJV:
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, And into his courts with praise: Be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; And his truth endureth to all generations.
And then we will get around to saying this, Psalm 138 KJV:
I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving kindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul. All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O Lord, when they hear the words of thy mouth. Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the Lord: for great is the glory of the Lord. Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.
Just as all rivers flow into the ocean, so do all thanks flow to God.
May God bless us one and all.
And to my Jewish readers, may God grant you and yours a sweet New Year.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)
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