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The Grinch that Steals Thanksgiving

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a fanciful movie based on Dr. Seuss' classic holiday poem. The Grinch, a hairy, green, cantankerous beast, looks down on the town of Whoville from his home on a mountain of garbage. What he sees disgusts him. The people who live in Whoville (called the Whos) love Christmas and all its trappings. Possessions, decorations, lights, and partying consume the Whos. The Grinch's disgust originated when he was mocked as a child because of his odd looks and the Christmas gift he hand made.

Because of this, he is intent on destroying Christmas and he nearly succeeds. You remember the story, the Grinch steals all the presents and Christmas trees in Whoville and takes them to his hideout, determined to destroy them. But something happens. Before he can carry out his dastardly destruction, he hears something. He hears the townspeople of Whoville singing in the valley.

The narrator explains: "Then the Grinch heard a sound rising over the snow. It started in low and it started to grow." The Grinch grimaces as the narrator continues: "But the sound wasn't sad, but merry?very. Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, were singing without any presents at all."

This mystifies mean old Mr. Grinch. How can these people, who have been robbed of their presents, still be happy and singing.

The narrator continues: "He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming. It came. Somehow or other it came just the same. And the Grinch with his Grinch feet ice cold in the snow stood puzzling and puzzling how could it be so."

Finally, the Grinch speaks: "It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

His eyes grow warm and soft and as big as saucers. Suddenly, he throws himself to the ground, convulsing as his heart grows three times the size it was before. He laughs. He cries. He claims to feel all toasty inside. Unfamiliar with tears, he thinks he is leaking, while a brilliant shaft of sunlight bathes his green face and reveals a sincere smile. The conversion of the Grinch is matched by a brilliant sunrise.

Ok, some of you are saying, “I didn’t come here to listen to Dr. Seuss. Furthermore, this isn’t Christmas, its Thanksgiving.” I understand, but there is a point. You see, Christmas isn’t the only time a Grinch appears. He loves to show up at Thanksgiving. O more than that, he loves to steal Thanksgiving and I think, if you really consider what I’m about to say, he’s a lot more involved at Thanksgiving than he’s ever been at Christmas. You see there is a grinch that steals Thanksgiving.


You read about him over in Deut 8. In that Chapter, Moses is giving his last will and testament to the people of Israel. After 40 years of eating dust and manna in the desert, the time has finally arrived: they are going into the Promised Land. When they get there, they will have unbelievable wealth and blessings, and, in the middle of their anticipation, Moses warns them. He tells them of a Grinch that waits for them across the Jordan. He says in v 11:

“Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;

Though they were about to experience the greatest blessing of their lives, and even though they knew that the blessing was a direct result of the miraculous preservation of God, Moses warns them not to forget. That’s pretty incredible, really. Just think about it. You have been given a magnificent gift that you did not deserve, and you immediately forget who gave it to you? How could that happen.

Moses tells them. He says beware . . . lest (v14) when your heart is lifted up. That’s the problem: pride. That’s the Grinch that was out to get them and that’s the grinch that steals our Thanksgiving.


And one of the most difficult things to deal with in pride is the fact that it is so universal, we often don’t even recognize it. Everyone struggles with it. It is especially true in an affluent country like ours. We tend to think in this country that we are special (much like the Jews, by the way). We think that God looks at us a little differently. We say in our hearts, “We’re America. We can do whatever we want!” Just about every person you know struggles with pride, including me and you..

And because everyone struggles with it, everyone is in danger of being deceived by it. In fact, you can be proud and not even realize it. It sneaks up on you.

Even though Ben Franklin did not really accept Christianity personally, he still tried to be moral. In fact, he had settled on 13 particular virtues. Among them were these:

Silence: "Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation."

Frugality: "Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing."

Industry: "Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions."

Tranquility: "Be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable."

He set up a book with a page for each virtue, lining a column in which to record his "defects." He would choose a different virtue to work on each week, and every day of that week, he would note every mistake he made. When the 13 weeks were over, he started down the list again. In this way, he could cycle through the list four times a year. For many decades, Franklin carried his little book with him, striving for a clean 13-week cycle.

But, as he made progress, he found himself struggling with yet another defect: his own pride. There is perhaps not one of the natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it. Struggle with it. Stifle it. Mortify it as much as one pleases. It is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself….

Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

That’s the way pride is. It will sneak up on you and deceive you. So, since pride is the grinch that steals thanksgiving and since that grinch is so universal and so deceptive, how can we recognize it and overcome it.

Well, Moses sermon to the Israelites really tells you how. In fact, he describes for us a cycle that we go through in our battle with arrogance. It looks something like this. First,



You would think that, if we were greatly blessed, we’d be better off, wouldn’t you. But, that’s not always the case! Like the hapless lottery winner who takes the check and loses his sanity, the Israelites were endangered by the very blessings they were about to receive. Moses tells them:

“Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;

Moses tells them, “Hey you’re about to have it all: You’re about to trade manna for T-bone and ice cream. You’re going to have all you want to eat so that you are full. You’re about to trade a mat in the desert for a mansion at the lake. You’re about to be rich beyond your wildest imaginations and you are in danger! Beware!

You see, the great danger we face in this life is not being destroyed by our needs. The greatest danger we face is being DISTRACTED BY OUR BLESSINGS.

Why? Why is that such a big deal to God? I mean, after all, if he gives us the mansion, aren’t we supposed to enjoy it? If he gives us the T-bone, doesn’t he want us to eat it? Why is he so worried about distraction? Well, its simply because when we are distracted by our blessings, we are DISTRACTED FROM OUR BLESSER. That’s what Moses says in v 14

when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end.

The danger is that they would forget that it was God who had delivered them from bondage; it was God whose presence defanged the snakes; shooed the scorpions away, and cracked the rocks to bring out water. It was God who dew-dropped breakfast every morning and it was God who had done it all, not so that they would forget Him, but so that they would remember and be blessed. Moses was warning them because he knew how easy it is for us to forget. As one commentator said, “When the immediate experience is one of security and tranquillity, then the living memory of the reality of God fades and easily ceases to be the governing principle of daily life. Materialism destracts us. And it doesn’t have to be an evil thing to be a distracting thing.


A couple of weeks ago, I decided it was time to replace my laptop. I had been using my current church computer for almost 8 years, and it had slowed down so much that I had been using my personal laptop for the last 2 or 3 years, so I decided to take the plunge. I prayed about it and was determined to keep things in perspective.

You have to understand. I am an electronics addict. I love to play with technology. I knew that, even though I felt it was time to replace my computer, I would tend to be captured by it and neglect what I really needed to do. I had already been online and compared prices and features so I went to Staples and picked it up. And then the grinch showed up. Technology took over. Before I turned around it was Tuesday afternoon and I had spent almost an entire day moving files and wading through minutia. I was distracted.

Have you been there? Have you made a purchase, determined that it would not captivate you, only to find yourself, in one sense, worshiping it with an inordinate amount of your time. The next day, I just left it home. I didn’t even bring it to church with me. I needed, quite frankly, to turn my heart from technology back to God.

That’s the way it works. Materialism distracts us.


Hey, Christian, are you distracted? Can I just give you some diagnostic questions to ask yourself to see where you are? First, where does your mind go first? Where do your unfocused thoughts take you. What is that thing that constantly captures your attention? It can be something that seems harmless and may even be necessary in itself, but if it captures your heart, it becomes a distraction.

Here’s another diagnostic question: Where’s your money going? Now, I’m thinking of more than whether you give your tithes and offerings, although it certainly involves that. What I’m thinking about is what happens with your “discretionary” money? When you got your Christmas bonus, if you were blessed enough to get one, did you immediatelyl think of how do meet your own needs, or did you look around for where God might want you to give some of it?

And what about your time? Where does that go? Are you all about working more hours, so you can earn more money, so you can pay for more stuff? When it comes to your time, what’s your distraction?

And what about your life? Are you focused on a career or a calling?

The first step to pride is distraction. It happens when the blessings of God take our minds off of the giver and focus them on gifts. And if you get caught up in that first step, then the second isn’t far behind. Not only does blessing lead to distraction, but then



One thing shines through clearly in these verses: When blessings distract us, our thoughts will begin to deceive us. Moses warns them in v 17 that after God so blesses them by delivering them from bondage and giving them mansions in the promised land they will tend to forget Him and even worse. V 17 says, “then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’” What a deception! God did everything. God gave everything, yet the man distracted by his blessings from his blesser will claim the credit. The deceived man, beholds the blessings of God and says, “Look what I did!”

How did he get so messed up? How could he be so ungrateful? It’s because he forgets two things. He forgets the source of wealth. V18 says,“And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth . . . There’s the problem. The man who has been deceived by his blessings has forgotten where they come from. Now I’m not saying that he may not verbally acknowledge God as his source, but he does not spiritually connect with that truth. If you could rip away the veneer of his gratitude, you’d find a proud heart in him. He’s been distracted and deceived because he has forgotten the source of wealth.

And that’s not the only problem he has with his memory. He also forgets the purpose of his wealth. That’s another thing that Moses warns the people about in v 18. He says, And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth (watch!) that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. The reason God had so blessed the Isralites had nothing to do with giving them mansions, at least not primarily. His purpose was to demonstrate His desire to have a covenant relationship with them.

It would kind of be like you determining that you wanted to marry someone. So you go to the store to buy an engagement ring. You pick out the very best because you want to demonstrate how much you really love this woman. She loves the ring, so she says yes. You get married and all the wedding night all she doesn’t care about being with you, all she wants to do is sit in a chair and stare at the ring. She forgets that the ring isn’t the end in itself, it’s just a symbol of the covenant.

When I am distracted by my blessings and deceived, I begin to think only of myself and say, “Look what I have done.” I forget that God is my source and I forget that God is my purpose.


One of the most telling examples of this is in one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s Shennandoah starring Jimmy Stewart. In this scene, his family sits around the table to eat and they are about to say the blessing. Listen to Jimmy Stewart’s prayer: PLAY DVD

Doesn’t that just about capture the average Christian’s real view of God? We say He’s our source and we say He’s our purpose, but our hearts have been distracted and our minds have been deceived and really, way down deep inside there is something that says, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.”

And you might say, “I’m insulted, pastor. How do you know what’s in my heart? How can you be so sure about me?” Well, I know because I know that so few people are really thankful. And the reason they aren’t really thankful is because down deep in their heart they are looking at their blessings and saying “Look! Look what I’ve done.”


I wonder, is that you? Have you begun to actually believe that “if its to be, its up to you?” Have you begun to feel a little smug? Have you begun to look at the people around you and say things like, ‘Well, I know what their problem is. If they’d just try a little harder like I did, they could be successful like me. If they’d just stop making excuses for their failure and learn to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, like me, they could achieve like I have.” You see, that kind of thinking is very close to saying, “My power and the strength of my hand have gained me this wealth.” And the man that says that has been distracted and deceived.

That’s the cycle of pride: Blessings lead to distraction and distraction leads to deception. But finally



Perhaps the greatest reason that Moses is so adamant about them having a thankful heart is because of where unthankfulness leads. Whether you realize it or not, ungratefulness dead-ends in idolatry. Moses predicted it for the Israelites in v 19 where he says: Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them . . . Wait a minute, Moses! Why are we all of a sudden talking about idolatry. We were just talking about being distracted, now all of a sudden, because we are unthankful, we’re in danger of becoming idolaters. How did that happen? It’s simple: Idolatry is the natural result of being distracted by the gifts from the giver and being deceived into thinking that your own strength is what matters.

You see, at it’s heart, idolatry is really not the worship of Zeus or Apollo or the sun. Idolatry is really a worship of self. Isaiah says as much in his prophecy. He gives an elaborate description of a man who goes to a forest and cuts down a tree. With a few of a the pieces he lights a fire and cooks his supper. With one of the pieces he sits down and carves himself an idol, then bows down and worships the very idol his own hands made. You see, the idolater, when he bows down to his idol of wood is only worshiping himself and his own creation. This is where deception always leads! When I think that my own strength and my own hand brought my blessings, I’ve become a self-worshiper.

And Moses isn’t shy about telling us where self worship leads. He says in Deuteronomy 8:19–20 Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. 20 As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God.

The end of the line for the idolater is destruction. Worshiping yourself seals your destiny, just like it did for the very first self-worshiper, that old serpent, Satan himself.


Yet, self worship may be the one religion we all share in common. “People recognize themselves in their commodities,” someone wrote. “They find their soul in their automobile, i-pod touch, two story home, and stainless steel refrigerator.” Anwar Sadat once said, “Most people seek what they do not possess and are thus enslaved by the very things they want to acquire.”

Mark Driscoll tells of taking a trip to India to visit believers. He said he was in the middle of nowhere, but whereever that was he was surrounded by idolatry. He said he was walking down this road and over to the side was an altar that had been constructed. There was chicken blood everywhere and feathers laying on the ground. There were idols as far as the eye could see. They worship everything you could possibly ever imagine. He was blown away by the sheer volume of idolatry that was in every knack and corner of the country.

Later, he was really taken aback. While he was grieving the idolatry so evident in India, but he couldn’t imagine the conversation he was about to have. He was talking to one pastor’s wife who was planting a church in that little village, “Do you think you will ever come to the United States and visit my country.” She replied, “I visited once, and I will never come again.” He asked her why and she replied, “Because I cannot stomach the idolatry.” Now that caught his attention. He said that she said this as he was standing next to this altar where chickens get “Whacked” built to what appeared to him to be the “chicken god.” He said that was not the answer he was expecting to hear.

So he asked her, “Where are the shrines of false worship and idolatry in our culture?” She replied:

• Your god is your stomach and you have restaurants everywhere.

• Your god is your sports teams and you build multi-million dollar stadiums to house them.

• Your god is your TV and you arrange all the chairs in your home surround it so that your family can gather at the altar and worship that god.

He said that her statement made him realize that we often allow all the things in our lives to become idols to us. You want to know why we are so unthankful? It’s because all the things in our lives have distracted us, deceived us, and turned us into self-worshipers. You see, when you are distracted and deceived, you will construct an idol out of your things.


So are you an idolater? Now I know that may not be an easy question to answer, so may I help you? Here are two very important items to me. They are my wallet and my watch. These are great tools to diagnose idolatry. Your watch is a diagnostic tool because if you will show me where you spend the most time, I will show you what you worship. Now I understand that you do have to go to work, but I am speaking mainly of your discretionary time. What occupies the most time in your life? Is it your job that you worship? Do you spend so much time taking care of your home or your business that you really can’t serve Him? Are you so tethered to your computer screen that you cannot worship God. Teens, and adults, are you addicted to texting and facebook? Your watch can tell you a lot about what you worship.

And so can your wallet. Where do you spend your money? Are you so addicted to the latest technology that you’ll go into debt to get it? Will you take the money God wants you to give and squander it on furniture or just eating out?

Deception will lead to idolatry and that idolatry is easily diagnosed by your watch and by your wallet.


But it doesn’t have to be that way. Blessing does not have to distraction. In fact, if we will allow God to have His way, blessing can lead to just the opposite. Instead of blessing leading to distraction from God, if we are truly thankful for what He gives, blessing can lead to a focus upon Him. And when we are focused on Him, we do not become deceived and forget God. No we have our eyes open to Who He is. His glory is revealed to us and in that moment of revelation, just like the women who came to the empty tomb and saw Jesus in the garden, we fall on our faces before Him and worship. And the worshiping heart; the thankful heart, is the heart God can continue to bless.

R. G. Letourneau knew it was true. He began in obscurity in Stockton California. He had no formal education and worked to level out farmland. But he would get frustrated because the equipment he had to use to accomplish the task did not do very well. He knew he could find a better way, so in 1922, he constructed the first all-welded scraper that was lighter, stronger, and less expensive than other machines.

Business took off and, during WWII, he produced 70% of all the army’s earth-moving machinery. But R. G. was a committed disciple of Christ. He said that God was the chairman of his board. Though he had the capacity to have many things, he was not distracted by them Even though he was a multi-millionaire, Letourneau tithed . . . in reverse. O Yes! He kept 10% of his income and gave 90% to God.

LeTourneau said that the money came in faster than he could give it away. LeTourneau was convinced that he could not out-give God. "I shovel it out,” he would say, “and God shovels it back, but God has a bigger shovel." He also said, “You will never know what you can accomplish until you say a great big yes to the Lord!”

That’s what he did. Instead of distracting him, his blessings focused him. Then his focus revealed just how big his God really was and that revelation led him to worship and that worship brought so much blessing into his life till he became absolutely convinced that he could not outgive God. Now, folks, that’s a real thanksgiving that the grinch of pride itself can never steal!

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