““But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:3–4, ESV)
I love the festive season the feast of Thanksgiving ushers in. Gathering around a table full with family and friends to give thanks to God is both intrinsically right and personally satisfying. Gratitude is a lynchpin grace, energizing all the other Christian virtues, and driving out many an ill-humored vice from the soul. Did you notice last week how, in our sermon text, as Paul railed against a list of worldly vices, he held forth gratitude as the one virtue with which to oppose such evil (Eph 5:3-4)? As such, gratitude often marks the way out of sin and the way back to God in Christ. A brief look back at your life will verify this observation. How many of our falls, both big and small, began with a grumbling and an ungrateful disposition? How many of our days, lost to a dark, negative, and nit-picking spirit, would have been warmed and sanctified if only we had remembered gratitude? In fact, I would go so far as to say, there is ingratitude in every sin and gratitude in every virtue.
We must, therefore, strive to be men and women who approach life with a grateful disposition. More than that, we must work hard to ensure this spirit rises to the fore in our families. Too often, we allow the petty, shortsighted frustrations of the moment to rob us of this grace. This brings much hindrance to the work of God in our homes.
This morning, in my devotions, I was reminded afresh of the importance of the family in the life of God in our souls. It came from a place you might find surprising: the Ten Commandments. Alec Motyer helped me see a structure to the decalogue I had never before perceived. I wonder if you had noticed it.
Commandments 1-2 deal with Thoughts
Commandment 3 deals with Words
Commandment 4 deals with Deeds
Commandment 5 deals with Family
Commandment 6-8 deal with Deeds
Commandment 9 deals with Words
Commandment 10 deals with Thoughts
Notice how the commandments begin and end with the inner life of the soul. As we approach the life of faith, how we think of God (and those who challenge his place as supreme) and how we think of our neighbor matters tremendously. The commandments then work in towards the center through our words and then our deeds. The family (the Fifth Commandment to honor father and mother) stands as a lynchpin holding the life of piety together. The family is the nursery of faith, hope, and love toward God and towards our neighbor. If it be bad, a terrible rottenness will spread up and down through the law code, corrupting our relationship with God and every other member of human society.
Let us, therefore, resolve to encourage piety in our families. Let us listen to God together, pray together, and raise our songs heavenward together. In everything, let us learn to give thanks together at all times and for all things. Whatever you face today, the redemptive, soul renewing, sin forgiving work of Christ, together with the Father's all-holding providence working all things together for your good should always give you a 'reason for the season' of Thanksgiving. Few other habits will make a greater difference to that happy throng dwelling together in that lovely place we like to call “home.”