God watching man eating Thanksgiving dinner
Are we bringing glory to God when we stuff our faces?

With Thanksgiving next week, many of us are probably already daydreaming of that first bite into the Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. In fact, button-popping, indigestion-inducing gluttony has all but been normalized in the American ethos when we think about the late-November holiday. And pop culture has undoubtedly played into that. Think, of course, about Joey in Friends shamelessly wearing 'Thanksgiving pants' - actually maternity pants - so that he can more easily consume Thanksgiving turkey unrestricted by his pesky waistband.

This is most of us come time to eat on Thanksgiving day.

Indeed, we've become so accustomed to eating obscene amounts of food and drink to show our thanks that we may have lost track of whether God would approve of our seasonal overeating.

It's a hypothetical question, of course, and one that isn't so easy to answer. Does God approve of Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Origins

Perhaps we should start by shedding light on a few misconceptions that continue to abound concerning the quintessential American holiday.

Some might believe Thanksgiving started as a Christian affair amongst the early Pilgrims and Puritans. Turns out that is only half the story - the origins of the holiday are about as Christian as hunting colored Easter Bunny eggs to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Thanksgiving was actually derived from an ancient English yearly pagan harvest celebration, completely separate from the more solemn religious "days of thanksgivings" act practiced by the Church of England without any particular date. While the two eventually merged, the fact remains that our more modern celebration (the family gatherings, the large meals) are definitely more 'harvest home' than Puritan; and the cornucopia a pagan symbol more steeped in Roman and Greek mythology than any Christian religious text.

Still, the 'first Thanksgiving' was indeed a real event, a shared autumnal feast between early Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians. However, it was a celebration of a good harvest after a tough and dangerous winter. And while glory to God was undoubtedly given, that was hardly the main event.

Glutton for Punishment

The Bible, in fact, frowns upon any sort of thanksgiving that simply focuses on one big meal a year. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" writes Paul in (1 Thessalonians 5:16 18). 

Then there's the whole gluttony issue.

It's bad enough we seem to focus so much of our thanks on one Pilgrim-inspired holiday, but then the fact we do it by serving turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, scores of casseroles, and liberally-buttered dinner rolls, topped off with cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and every brand of craft beer and wine imaginable, to the point of literal comatose, scores us no points with Proverbs 23:21:

"For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And slumber will clothe them with rags."

The meaning is clear. Over-indulgence, and the lethargy that comes with that, leads to ruin. And lest we forget that gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. Gluttony not only leads to the sort of gross over-indulgence depicted in Proverbs 23:21, but also denies the needy food and creates needless waste.

You can see where all this is going. God frowns upon the notion of excess. And for too many of us, Thanksgiving has become more a celebration of food and a reason to stuff our face than an actual giving of thanks.

All Things in Moderation?

Of course, there are plenty of Christian defenses of Thanksgiving, and not everyone thinks that one day of over-indulgence a year is a sin. A piece by Religion News Service says that all of the positivity associated with Thanksgiving - love of family, togetherness, building joyous memories - is worthy of a mulligan on the gluttony front. It's the rest of the year we should be worried about, says Brevard College professor Mary Louise Bringle. "Sitting around the table at a feast is not a gluttonous act, sitting in front of the television gobbling potato chips is."

The larger sin at hand, she says, is the failure to recognize God's role in providing you sustenance. To fail to recognize His hand in your meal. "Eating too much," she says, "is [only] a small part of gluttony."

She argues that its the other 364 days of the year we need to be watching out for. One big meal, celebrated joyously amongst family, isn't a sin. It's when we take our excessive desires into our daily lives that it becomes a problem.

Food for Thought

As the Apostle Paul said, the human body is God's temple. Isn't clogging your temple's arteries and expanding your temple's gut an affront against God? On the other hand

Given that many of us so rarely get to sit down with our families and enjoy a large meal in loved ones' company, can't we get one holiday where we're allowed to over-indulge a bit? Can we just count our blessings on Thanksgiving, and save counting our calories for another day?

What do you think? Does God really approve of Thanksgiving dinner and all the overindulgent excess that goes with that? Or is reinforcing our family bonds and breaking bread with those we love enough that we can get a pass - for one day, at least?

31 comments

  1. Pam's Avatar Pam

    Thanksgiving is also an excellent time to remember the family we've lost by talking about them, using their recipes, remembering them with love. Knowing our eternal soul will join them again when the time comes.

    1. Carlos Antonio Belsham's Avatar Carlos Antonio Belsham

      May I thank you.

    2. James Charles Beattie's Avatar James Charles Beattie

      Thank you Pam, you are entirely correct, Good bless you and yours.

  1. Carrie's Avatar Carrie

    Sounds like crap to me. We must consider that, if you will, it was the first instance of Americans feeding the first illegal immigrants. The Americans were not Christian, although the immigrants were. When it was made a holiday, it was a day for people to get together and be thankful for what they had and break bread. Religion didn't have anything to do with it. There are no specific church services. We used to take the children to the movies while our parents prepared dinner. Now I am older and look forward to seeing and sharing a festive meal with my siblings and their children. Not a Christian, don't go to church. There is no prior claim on the day.

    1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

      There were no Americans at the "first Thanksgiving". The people to whom you refer had no name for themselves other than, "the people". They did, however, have a bucket stuffed with derogatory names for other people not of their tribe/family - pretty much like real Americans.

  1. Kat's Avatar Kat

    did God approve of The Last Supper I don't think he Minds is eating and having a good time with our friends and family where do you see something wrong in that at all and a lot of people also help those who could use food so I see nothing wrong with it Minister Katherine Strid

  1. minister james's Avatar minister james

    ...appears to me that it's just another facet of our American consumer-based societal worship-of-wealth religion: "...if some is good, the a whole lot more must be better!...". Enjoy the day as you see fit, and may we ALL find a better day...

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    How can mythical gods approve or disapprove of anything?

    As for religious people like Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn et al who have a gluttony of money, when we have so much poor and homeless among us, I'm sure they are laughing all the way to the bank, and digging their own Hell.....hopefully.

    ?♥️

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      My God and Goddess just want us to be happy, without causing harm. Pig out!!! And develop an all-American, middle-aged gut (like I've succeeded at doing)!!!

  1. Lori's Avatar Lori

    I don't have a clue as to whether or not "God" cares about Thanksgiving and our gluttony and neither does anyone else. I think the only thing that matters is to recognize that Thanksgiving is a good time to put our opinions about politics and other controversial topics aside so we can find common ground around a table of family and friends. Live, Laugh and Love.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    It's also rude to talk when our mouths are full of food. We could accidentally spit some out onto somebody else's plate.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Furthermore, I don't care if God likes it or not. As far as I can tell, I'm not here to pleàse my dieties anyway. I believe in them, and honor them, but won't be their slave. I've got my own life to live, as I see fit. And I can't see how stuffing my fat face is going to cause any karmic debt.

  1. Val jester's Avatar Val jester

    I reject the premise of your headline.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Go ahead Val, I can take it. This isn't the first time I've been rejected, but I still think you're cute.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I reject your rejection. So, there!

    3. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I'm glad I wasn't after a clown, jester. I'd be afraid nobody would ever take me seriously.

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        In my a above comment the word named should be between wasn't and after. Thank you.

        1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

          Please tell me if Vàl is short for Val-et, Val-ley girl, or Val-erie. Those valley girls are a lot of fun, but I wouldn't let one park my car, for it could end up in the Val-kyries.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I've got a photograph of myself in my Ball High JROTC uniform, shortly after my seventeenth birthday, that reminds me of how I don't ever want to be skinny again. I was then 6'1", weighed 120 lbs., and had a 26" waist. I'm now a little taller, wear a 42" belt, and weigh at least 265 lbs.. I was skinny long enough, and will never deprive myself of food! I've been heavier than this before, and now that I'm thinking about, by the end of the holiday season, I bet I'll be ten pounds heavier. Thank you for giving me a positive goal to work toward.

  1. The Doctor's Avatar The Doctor

    While no fan of modern christianity, the 7 sins and 7 virtues which replaced the 10 commandments are not at all bad things and in fact are full of simple common sense wisdom.

    The Virtues 1. Chastity, note this is not celibacy, being chaste is basically just being picky about partners and having the sense not to jump into bed with a total stranger and thus exposing oneself to the myriad of dangers from STDs to them being potentially violent or the like. I am a big fan of lust between 2 consenting adults who know each other well enough to know they are safe when at their most vulnerable.

    2.Temperance. What is temperance exactly? In a nutshell self control. In fact basically most of the 7 virtues can be summed up as the virtue of self control but lets go on.

    1. Charity. While temperance is the opposite of gluttony, It also goes hand in hand with this one. After all as a social group that has gotten to the level of civilization we have has in large part been due to a mixture of self control, and helping those in need when we are doing well. Part of that story of the first thanksgiving that should be stressed is that prior to that harsh winter there was actually mostly mistrust and varying degrees of violence between the puritan colonists and the local tribal groups. However seeing the dire straights and almost certain doom of starvation closing in on those colonists removed the mystique of their strangeness and let the tribe see them as just people trying to desperately cling to life. That tribe, perhaps to its own and all others detriment chose charity because that is what any good human would choose when seeing people starving.

    So maybe while stuffing yourself do keep in mind the very message the silly satirical show Southpark tried to send 20 years ago with its season 1 thanksgiving episode. Maybe to really give thanks for being well off you should try to make sure those in need in shelters and on the streets have a good full belly on a harsh cold day.

    4.Diligence. the counter to sloth aka being a lazy waste of air. Perhaps consider taking abit of your time and expend abit of your energy to try and make those really in need of a good hot meal have that simple dream come true and be the reason others give thanks.

    1. Patience. What I often feel entirely too close to running out of dealing when dealing with racists, zealots, and nationalists.

    6.Kindness. If I have to explain this one then this world is really doomed.

    7.Humility aka being humble. Something lacking in far too many, who often use race,gender, place of birth etc as a reason to feel proud and act better then those suffering and in dire straights.

    So maybe on Thanksgiving day, every time you take another bite you dont need of food your going to deit away the calories of or complain about the added pounds of, at least take a moment to imagine a child cold and hungry out there in the world that would weep in joy and see you as a living god of mercy and charity for even a meager offering off the plate your going to clear, and the food that you will waste over the coming week.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Virtues are nice to aspire to, but let's talk reality.

      1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

        There is nothing unreal about striving to be at our bests.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      What do you suggest we do about those starving children, Doc, mail them the extra food off of our plates, or do you think making ourselves feel bad about our overabundance is going to help them in some way. I'd feel a lot better by giving myself positive affirmations, rather than negative ones.

      1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

        How about just look into donating to a local shelters food bank? Or inviting a less well off family to your home for the big days meal? We dont have to reach around the world to help. But if everyone would try to help those less well off then them that are near by then eventually that kindness could reach around the world.

        The why bother or whats the point attitude you express makes me wonder if your claim to actually minister to others is just all talk. No matter our personal faith focus. to be a minister is to minister to those in need.

        1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

          For two years I volunteered at a soup kitchen run by Catholic Charities here in Galveston, Tx. Less than a year ago l volunteered for going on two years passing out food at a Baptist church's monthly free food giveaway ( and the pastor there didn't approve of Paganism or Wicca, but it didn't hurt me to act like a Christian for a few hours every time I was there, so I could help. I did volunteer work for about a year, five days a week, with Aids Coalition Of Coastal Texas, Inc. . I'm even a past chapter president of Victorious Missionaries, a Christian missionary group for and of the physically handicapped and chronically ill. I'm even a former Secretary-Treasurer of the Lambda Galveston A.A. group. As a teenager, l did volunteer work with a boy scout troop of mentally retarded children, and taught swimming for the special Olympics. However, I'll still stuff my fat face, and never think about starving children while I do. Nor will I put myself down for not being totally virtuous. I'm good enough as I happen to be. You have a different style of ministering sir, but I don't knock you for it.

        2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

          I hate to boast, but on Thanksgiving I gave away six very full plates of food from my home to neighbors, and my brother came over and ate Thanksgiving dinner with me. I finally got through eating all that food yesterday. Three jarrs of unsweetened applesauce came in the mail from Amazon Prime today. I guess I'll have that, as well as Tuna Helper this evening, with three cans of Starkist. My internet service will be shutting off soon, and y'all wont be hearing from me for a few months. Got a lot of other expenses during the holidays, and that fifty bucks a month is much needed. So, happy holidays, and I shall return, after fat Tuesday.

  1. Ben's Avatar Ben

    I don't know about the God of Abraham - he does seem to like his people to to without and to suffer, but my Gods want for us to celebrate. Especially if it's a celebration for all the things that the God/desses have provided for us. It's a National holiday that comes but once a year. Eat drink and be merry!

    PS: as for this being some sort of Pagan event .... they must be alluding to Mabon, which is Sept. 21st. And another thing, most Christian and/or secular Holidays are just repackaged Pagan holidays. So enjoy, this pagan gives his blessings that you do so.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Merry meet and merry part, and merry meet again. Blessed be!

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    And if all else fails, try running skyclad through a forest, while picking berries.

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    I do not know anyone who attends T-day gatherings intent upon eating more than they usually do. Oh, sure, the gatherings are larger than a "regular" meal, but only because the meal is intended to serve more people - so there is more, and a wider variety of - food. I'm not saying there aren't gluttons, just that I don't know any of them and that most folk who attend their family gatherings on T-day eat the way they eat every other day of the year.

    And gluttony is not a sin that can be found in the Bible. Seriously. But if you don't want to be a glutton - don't.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    By George, I think he's got it!

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