Thanksgiving, Free Time, and Sin
It is Thanksgiving week and people all across the country are taking time off from work and school to enjoy a feast with family and friends. During this happy time of the year, many will spend this extra time growing in deep relationships with God and others, and getting some rest. Others will use the extra time to sin.
Young and old, men and women will find increased free time brings increasing temptation to indulge in Internet pornography. It doesn’t need to be that way. Particularly on a holiday like Thanksgiving, which is packed with weapons-grade resources to defeat pornography. Consider what a powerful weapon Thanksgiving is in the fight against pornography.
Ephesians 5 and the Theme of Thankfulness
In Ephesians 5:3-4 God shows Christians how powerful gratitude can be as a weapon in the fight against pornography:
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving (emphasis added).
God forbids all kinds of sexual immorality in this passage. He forbids sexually immoral speech, sexually immoral acts, the impure behaviors that push the lines toward those acts, and greedy hearts that desire those acts. This passage leaves no room for porn in the life of a Christian.
But God does not just forbid in this passage. He also commends. In Ephesians 5:3-4, in place of immorality God says there should be something else instead. That something else is thankfulness.
Thanksgiving: More than a Day, A Strategy for Change
Don’t skip past this. Settle in on this idea and let it sink down deep for a few minutes. It may be the key strategy God wants to use to set you free from your addiction to pornography. In this passage, God is urging Christians to replace sexual immorality with something else. He could have inspired the Apostle Paul to write anything here. Paul could have said, But instead let there be love, or mercy, or self-control, or joy. Instead of any of those wonderful things, God wanted Paul to tell Christians to replace immorality with thankfulness. This means that we need to consider why gratitude is so important to God in the fight against sexually immoral acts like pornography.
Paul wants Christians to fight for thanksgiving in their struggle for purity because a greedy heart is also at the root of sexual immorality and impurity. The only time people are immoral and impure is when they are greedy for things that are immoral and impure. Take away the greedy heart that desires immorality and those evil actions will also go away. Paul sees something unique about gratitude that has the power to destroy a heart filled with greedy lust. We can better understand the connection between greed and gratitude when we grasp their opposite natures.
Gratitude Replaces Greed
Greedy lust wants what it does not have. Of course, it’s not necessarily wrong to want things you don’t have. If you’re hungry it’s good to want a sandwich. If you’re thirsty it’s right to desire some water. When you’re tired there’s nothing wrong with longing for a night’s rest. Greedy lust, however, perverts desire either in degree or in direction. Greed perverts desire in degree when you want a good thing too much. If you’re hungry and want a sandwich so badly that you’re short-tempered with the lady at the deli, or if you’re thirsty and want a drink so badly that you don’t share with others who are thirsty, then your good desire is perverted in degree. Greed perverts desire in direction when you want things you shouldn’t want or you want to satisfy your desire in the wrong way. Sexual desire is not sinful in itself, but when you desire sex with a woman who is not your spouse, your desire is pointed in the wrong direction and is lustful.
In contrast, gratitude is the attitude of a heart that is thankful for anything and everything the Lord gives. You are grateful when you are glad and content with what you have. Thankfulness is the opposite of lust because the thankful heart has stopped prowling around for everything it doesn’t have and is overwhelmed with appreciation for all the good things it already possesses. The logic of lust requires you to be discontent with what you have and pay attention to all the things you don’t have. The logic of thankfulness requires you to focus on what you have already received and to be overcome with gratitude. Clearly, gratitude is the opposite of greed.
This is more than a true principle or an interesting contrast. This is also a strategy for defeating sin. God doesn’t only observe the truth that greed and gratitude are opposites. He commands us to stop being greedy and start being grateful. In a war it’s not typically enough to defend against the attack of an aggressor. Ultimately, you must take offensive measures to be victorious. Gratitude is the offensive weapon that destroys the enemy stronghold of greed at the source of your desire for pornography. When you begin to destroy greed with gratitude you’re not far from freedom.
Thanksgiving and Victory
As you eat turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce I hope you’ll realize that you’re doing more than keeping a family tradition. Right at your fingertips on Thanksgiving Day is a key strategy to change from the sin that is enslaving you. By God’s grace, as you grow in gratitude, you can grow in the grace of purity this holiday season.
(This material is adapted from a section in Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert, and published by Zondervan. The book is available here.)