THE SIMPLE LIFE
A Thanksgiving sermon based on Matthew 6:25-33
First Baptist Church of Lynchburg
November 21, 2021
By Paul Dakin
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our
Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will
he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Matthew 6:30
Here it is—the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I am sure that many of you have already done major
shopping in preparation for Thursday’s big feast. I imagine that most people are eagerly looking forward
to it. For those, it is a time when family and friends can gather around the table to express their thanks
to the Lord for the bounty that he has provided. (I will also say—with all appropriate modesty, of
course—that Thanksgiving is a good opportunity for those of us who are home cooks to show off a little
Others perhaps look to the day with a measure of trepidation—especially if they do not spend
much time cooking in the kitchen the rest of the year. Being in charge of Thanksgiving dinner for the
extended family is no doubt intimidating—especially when it’s the first time. It will inevitably (and
unfairly) be compared to the legendary spreads that Mom (or Grandmom) used to be famous for…With
all the nostalgia associated with those meals thrown in for good measure, that’s a tough competition for
any novice cook to find herself or himself in…
In the latest utility bill sent by the City of Lynchburg earlier this month, I noticed an unusual flyer
enclosed. Maybe you saw it too. Included with the bill was an announcement concerning pouring fat and
grease down the kitchen sink drain. The notice went on to describe how that is a really bad idea. That is
because fat and grease disposed of in that manner tends to gather together to clog up city sewer lines.
And that necessitates expensive repairs by Lynchburg Public Works…
As many of you are aware, our oldest son Will has taken a position with Walker’s Plumbing,
based in Bedford. Consequently I have it on good authority that this time of year—Thanksgiving through
Christmas—is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for plumbers. Between fixing plumbing
issues in the house ahead of the arrival of guests, and having to open kitchen sink drains that have been
clogged with grease and other food waste, plumbers get really, really busy during these seasons…
Jonathan Safran Foer is widely regarded as among the best of America’s young novelists. Among
his other accomplishments, he has been a creative writing professor at both Princeton and Harvard.
Concerning Thanksgiving, he wrote, “Thanksgiving is the meal we aspire for other meals to resemble.” I
like that idea. A meal of wonderful food creatively prepared, agreeable table companions, and the
whole experience being infused with thanksgiving toward God—that is the ideal of what Thanksgiving
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dinner should be, isn’t it?…And perhaps such thoughts should characterize more of our usual day-to-day
meals as well…
Today’s gospel text from Matthew 6 may seem a bit strange in the context of the Sunday before
Thanksgiving. After all, nowhere in the text do the words “thanksgiving” or even “thanks” occur. The
topic that Jesus addresses in these well-known words is the subject of worry.
In the verses preceding today’s text, Jesus warns the crowd of the influence and power of
money. It’s a familiar passage that you all have heard before. Jesus says that no one can serve two
masters. Either a person will hate one and love the other, or will love the one and despise the other.
And he sums up his teaching by declaring that you cannot serve God and “Mammon.” “Mammon” is an
ancient word used to denote money and wealth. Jesus then continues his teaching with today’s text…
The thrust of today’s text is that Jesus tells us that worry is the antithesis of the life of faith. As
examples to explain what he means, he uses common sights in Palestine like birds…and lilies…and grass
as illustrations to show how God takes care of his creation:
He says that birds do not sow or reap or harvest grain in its season. It is worth noting, though,
that birds do have to exert some energy to find their own food. But they do not worry about
such things. And yet God takes care of them.
He says that the lilies of the field do not labor or make their own clothes. And yet, Jesus said
that even King Solomon, whose wealth and wisdom were legendary in Israel, was not dressed as
well as they are.
Thirdly, he talks about grass. He says that God takes care of the grass, even though it is here
today and gone tomorrow. In each of these instances, Jesus asks his listeners, “Are you not
worth much more to God than these things?” Of course the answer is, “Yes—you are worth
much more than any of these. Therefore God will surely provide for you as well.”
Jesus sums up his teaching in this passage with words that go to the very heart of his message.
He said, “Strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all of these will be given to you
Or to put it another way…in the words of business guru Stephen Covey, “The main thing is to
keep the main thing the main thing.” Covey’s contention is that businesses lose their way and become
less productive when they stray from the original vision that made them successful—the set of core
values and services that made them profitable in the first place.
Jesus contends that the same thing is true in the life of the Spirit. Family, social life, finances,
work, and health are all important in our lives. There is no denying that. And those are the kinds of
things which occupy our thoughts and energies on a day-to-day basis. And they should. It’s just natural.
But Jesus says, “Keep the main thing the main thing. Put God first in your life and make following his
Holy Spirit the top priority.” He says that God is to hold first place in our lives—not any of these other
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matters. And he adds that, when we do that, then these other concerns will naturally fall into their
rightful places of importance… because God is faithful…
At this point in the service, you may be thinking to yourself, “Okay, this is all well and good.
Jesus is warning us about the dangers of money and other concerns which may threaten to take the
rightful place of God in our lives. I get that. I really do. But this is the Sunday before Thanksgiving, right?
Aren’t we here to think about what it means to give thanks? What does any of this have to do with
Thanksgiving?”… I guess that’s a fair question…
Here is the main takeaway from this sermon: Thanksgiving is the antidote to worry. A heart
that is filled with gratitude for who God is, and what God has done, is not one that will be overly
concerned with temporal matters like food…and drink…and clothes. Because the truly thankful heart
gives no place for worry. It is a heart that is thankful to the Lord for what he has done—for the
bounteous gifts that he has given us—the way that he shows us every day the depth of his love for us in
the care he exhibits each and every day.
There really is something in that old hymn that we sometimes sing this time of year:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you till your journey’s end
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what god hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessing, see what God hath done.1
Thanksgiving is the antidote to worry. When we focus our minds and hearts on all of God’s care
for us instead of focusing on what might happen…or what could happen…or on things over which we
have no control…then we are filled with gratefulness and praise instead of the bondage of anxiety and
fear. When we are filled with thanksgiving, then there is little space in our lives for worry. There is no
place for that which would rob us of “the peace of God, which passes all understanding that guards our
hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”2
That is how God wishes his children to be—a people who are filled
with praise and gratefulness for the God who is the giver of every good and perfect gift—a people who
“Count Your Blessings” by Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1897). Hymn is in the public domain.
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are free from the chains of worry that keeps them from becoming all that God has created them to
20th Century British newspaper man and Christian writer G. K. Chesterton wrote that, “I would
maintain that thanksgiving is the highest form of thought…and that gratitude is happiness doubled by
wonder.” As this sermon draws to a close, it is my prayer that YOUR happiness may be doubled by
wonder at the marvelous God who loves and cares for you. And we not only thank him for his obvious
good gifts to us, but also for the things that have helped to make us more like Jesus:
For the times of trial that made us depend even more on God’s sustaining grace,
For the failures we endured that made us wiser,
For the troubles and struggles we faced that made us stronger,
For the disappointments that, in the end, make us look even more to God to help us make it
For the gift of life itself, for the mystery of being…and thinking…and feeling…and loving,
And most of all for the love that we experience through the new life that we have been given in
our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
May your gratitude and thanksgiving be doubled by happiness and wonder all during this week
of Thanksgiving. And may gratitude and thanksgiving permeate your life now and always—long after this
week’s holiday is but a pleasant memory…
To God alone be the glory! Amen