Thanksgiving Holy Unto the LORD?


This meme is bouncing around Facebook with the intent of keeping Thanksgiving a holy day unto the LORD. This is implied because the point of the meme is to keep the stores closed, keep people from shopping, and close down commerce. Those behind the meme believe that Thanksgiving was started by Christians when they first landed on the continent, therefore it should be a holy day, like Easter or Christmas. As we will see below from one historian, the early settlers had no intention of setting up a yearly holy day.

My intent here is to encourage fellow believers in the truth about what God has given us to be holy and to cast off that which He has not given us. This would be more in keeping with the beliefs and practices of those early Christians who supposedly, but did not, set up Thanksgiving.

First off, what days has God given us to worship Him with thanksgiving? Very simply, He has given us the Sabbath under the Old Covenant and the LORD’s day under the New Covenant.

This is how the LORD put it:

“‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave[c] in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

If you do the math, you will find that we have 52 days a year to celebrate the Sabbath, or LORD’s day in a manner that is pleasing to Him. I say the LORD’s day, because the poster of the meme above said that if we wanted to be legalistic about the Fourth Commandment, that we should worship on the seventh day, not the first day. What he, and many fail to see, is that the practice of worshiping on the LORD’s day, the first day of the week, was instituted by the apostles. They had the right to change the day and the reason to do so. The single most magnificent event in history occurred on the first day of the week, and was reason enough to change the day of worship from the seventh to the first day. Not only does it point to the hope we have in Christ, but also to the new creation that He brings about in the resurrection. The seventh-day Sabbath was given to point back to the creation of heaven and earth by God. It was there as a reminder, that the LORD rested on the seventh day. The change to the first day of the week points to the new creation, which will be a new heaven and new earth without the taint of sin.

Just a side note though on the charge that keeping the LORD’s day holy is somehow being a legalist. Why is it that whenever Christians bring up keeping the first part of the Ten Commandments, especially the Fourth Commandment, that we are being legalistic? Would those who do so say we are being legalistic when we hold to the Sixth Commandment, you shall not commit murder, or the Seventh Commandment, you shall not commit adultery? Why are we only being legalistic when we attempt to keep the first part of the Decalogue as well as the rest?

The Apostle James tells us that whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point becomes accountable for all of it (James 2:10). This means that even the smallest sin makes us accountable before God. So why would we willingly break the portion of God’s Law that shows us how it is we are to worship our LORD and Savior? We don’t worship Him in spirit and TRUTH when we are actively breaking one of the commands that HE gave us in showing us how we are to worship Him.

The overarching point is that when it comes to the man-made holiday of Thanksgiving, we should not be worried about who works and who does not work. However, we should be concerned about this when it comes to the LORD’s day. We should do everything in our power to honor what the LORD has commanded us in worshiping Him. This means not working on His day, not engaging in commerce on His day, not going to restaurants and thus causing our “servants” to work on His day. It’s His day. We are to honor Him on His day.

I know there will be some who will say, “but what about doctors and nurses?” First off, repent of your desire to find a loophole. You should be more concerned about how you can keep and honor the LORD on His day, than how you can avoid doing so. Your excuse to disobey is nothing more than rebellion against a holy and just God and that should concern you more than those performing acts of mercy, which the LORD has also commanded us to do.

The other area of repentance concerning God’s holy day is the thought that since we cannot keep it perfectly, and we can’t, that we should just give up. Again, repent of such foolishness. Jesus commanded us to keep His commandments (John 14:15) though He knew that we could not keep them perfectly, hence the reason for His earthly visit, ministry, death, and resurrection. However, even with our imperfect obedience, we are to still strive for obedience. It should be our delight to do so.

The second problem with making Thanksgiving holy is that it is based upon the false premise that Thanksgiving was intended to be a yearly sacrament, set up by the early Christians who landed here in our country. The truth is, that the Christians who celebrated that first Thanksgiving, would not have ever dreamed of turning that celebration into a yearly exercise and making the day holy unto the LORD. Remember, these Christians were strict when it came to honoring the LORD on Sunday. They did not celebrate Christmas because of it’s Pagan roots, and origin in the Roman Catholic Church.

Robert Tracy McKenzie, professor and chair of the Department of History at Wheaton College, has written quite a bit about Thanksgiving at his blog Faith and History. I asked him very simply: Given their faithfulness to the word, and their understanding of the LORD’s day, what would be their view of Thanksgiving today? Here is his response:

Good question, Timothy. I discuss this at length in my book. I don’t think they would object to a day off for feasting and recreation, as long as we did not impute religious significance to it. They strongly objected to the creation of holidays (literally, “holy days”) not explicitly commanded in scripture. They believed that the Scripture allowed for occasional, irregular days of Thanksgiving in response to extraordinary blessings from God, but they would have vehemently objected to scheduling a regular Thanksgiving every fourth Thursday in November. They associated regular holidays with Catholicism and believed that they inevitably became empty rituals with little true spiritual substance.

And is this not what has become of our yearly observance of Thanksgiving? It is not, for most, just an empty ritual when it comes to the comparison to a true holy day given by the LORD? After all, what do we do but satisfy the self on this day? We indulge in gluttony and entertainment. If we wanted it to be a true day honoring the LORD, we would be better off fasting and praying all day. But fasting and praying are not to be seen on this day.

All this to say, let our Pagan nation have its holy day of Thanksgiving. Let us keep the holy days our loving Savior has given us. Let us remember to hallow the first day that points to the only true hope we have: the hope of being saved from our sins, the hope of eternal fellowship with our Lord, the hope of a new heaven and a new earth, the hope of being freed from the bondage of sin, the hope of being in eternal fellowship with our true brothers and sisters, the hope that reminds us that this fallen world is not all that there is, the hope that our failed dreams will be replaced with greater realities, the hope that is the reality of the Father’s eternal love placed upon us…in other words, let us place our hope and faith where it belongs: in the One who gave us His precious Law, then redeemed us from the reality that we could not keep it, and then frees us to joyfully do so.

When we live in these realities, then our thanksgiving will pour forth on every LORD’s day, as it should, yes, even every day, as it should.

One final note: I’m not saying we should not enjoy the government-sanctioned holiday of Thanksgiving. However, let’s not make it more than it is. Enjoy time with our families. Enjoy a few football games. Enjoy the turkey, stuffing (dressing), mashed potatoes, and all the fixings. Let it be a national holiday, set apart by our government for us to enjoy. But don’t make it holy unto the LORD when He has not called us to do.


4 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Holy Unto the LORD?

  1. Jeanette

    Excellent post!

    I often think about the Sabbath and what is appropriate for that day. My Sunday morning is spent in Sunday School and Worship service. I wonder what I should be doing in the afternoon. I could (and frequently do) spend a couple hours max visiting someone who is homebound or in a nursing home. I could study the bible and pray.

    What about spending time on one’s hobbies? That’s not work, that’s pleasure, but it is resting from house work, office work, and yard work, etc.. I’m guilty of knitting, sewing, or reading fiction sometimes on Sunday afternoons, but those are not holy activities.

    If one truly keeps the Sabbath holy, it seems like one would do only things related to God or serving others with a visit, taking them a meal, etc. Maybe you could suggest things that would be appropriate to do on Sunday afternoons.

    Thank you.


    1. We still struggle with Sunday afternoon as well. I don’t think any of the things you listed are sinful, but you might pray about ways to honor God and let Him lead you.

      I started a Wednesday night bible study in our home, therefore, I use Sunday afternoon to study and prepare for that. That has helped immensely.


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