A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery
November 25, 2015
The Ten Commandments all relate to concrete actions – except for one. The final commandment, “Thou shalt not covet,” is about the disposition of the heart. It is entirely inward, though certainly it bears great consequence in our behaviors. The Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession specifies a set of actions not only that are prohibited by each of the commandments, but also those that are mandated by each. So, for instance, the prohibition of lying includes the positive command to honor the virtues of others; similarly, the command not to kill includes the mandate to love one another. The command against covetousness suggests perhaps the most direct positive mandate of all – it is the charge to give thanks in all things.
Each of us yearns for things we do not have. This commandment specifies only a few items of disordered yearning; many more are left unnamed. Some things we are tempted to desire are terribly wrong, but some of our longings are truly good and right. We yearn for peace, to be securely loved, to enjoy good health, to know God more fully, and to see the reign of Jesus made more visible in our church and world. These are wonderful, life-giving desires that we do well to nurture.
Whether our yearnings are commendable, questionable, or destructive, the best way to address unmet longing is to practice thanksgiving. Our due thanks is first and foremost toward God, for the many wonderful gifts we enjoy that we never earned, and often do not deserve. Yet thanksgiving toward God rings hollow if not accompanied by thanks to our earthly companions – family, friends, forebears, teachers, caregivers, peacekeepers, governors, and so on. Scripture reminds us often that we cannot love God rightly if we don’t love each other; similarly, we cannot be people of genuine thanksgiving to God apart from being thankful to and for one another.
Thanksgiving is an amazingly broad-spectrum antidote. It sets us in right relationship to God. It creates a climate for love to flourish in human relationships. It arrests fears. It yields the sweet fruit of peace within. It releases and further generates joy in ourselves and others. It quiets our worries. And it makes us much more pleasant to live with, to boot!
So, beloved of God, give thanks always. Especially on Thanksgiving Day, of course. But let thanksgiving be more than a day’s observance, more than an occasional practice; let it flourish within us and among us constantly. It will move us to greater wholeness than we can imagine – as individuals, as congregations, as a presbytery, as the whole people of God. Let us open the floodgates of healing by giving thanks with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength.
The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister
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