What spiritual benefit could come from eating pie and praising God? In Romans chapter 1, Paul explains to us that God’s wrath is revealed against the idolatry of man. He shows us that idolatry is not simply the act of bowing down to wood and gold carvings, but is what happens when you take ANY created thing and treat it like you ought to treat God.
This is scary news: We live in a world surrounded by potential idols! How should we live? How do we navigate our way through a creation full of good gifts from God, but in such a way that they do not replace him?
Or we could ask the question another way: Did God make a mistake by giving us a whole world full of possible stumbling blocks? Is he simply trying to trip us up, and then burn with wrath at us when we do?
Not at all.
The Thanksgiving holiday is an opportunity to practically apply the message of Romans 1 to our lives. Before we dive into Romans 1, let’s consider for a moment how the temptation to idolatry works by looking at the very first instance.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
(Genesis 2:15-17 ESV)
What can we tell about the nature of God from this passage? He is a generous and giving God. His provision is boundless. He offers to the man every tree of the garden. No matter how bountiful your Thanksgiving spread, it pales in comparison to the extravagance available to Adam and his wife.
But when the serpent arrives on the scene, it is this very nature of God that he calls into question. Look at his question to the woman:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
(Genesis 3:1 ESV)
What is the deception about God that the serpent is presenting? See how he twists God’s words into a distortion of the reality? When God spoke, he offered a world full of pleasures with one prohibition, but the tempter paints a very different picture with his forked tongue, “You shall not eat of any tree?” He makes the single prohibition the blinding totality.
You see friends, our enemy has been playing the same trick for thousands of years. The devil is a liar, and his method is very simple, and dangerously effective. He influences us to doubt the goodness and generosity of our giving God.
He is no creator. He can’t make a thing. He does not have anything to offer us but the things that God has made with good purposes. So Satan’s strategy is persuade us to take something the Creator has made—whether it is food, or sex, or your friends, or your family—and distort its intended function.
Life under Satan’s reign is a hall of carnival mirrors with everything stretched and skewed to the point of absurdity. There is nothing he can offer that would not be better enjoyed in its proper place within God’s good timing and wise design.
Even the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was something in God’s “very good” creation (Genesis 1:31). But in God’s sovereign prerogative for reasons he did not disclose, he said to Adam, “Take anything and everything, except for this one. Not right now.”
My friends, Thanksgiving is a time for spiritual warfare. We fortify our hearts against the devil’s schemes by roaring with laughter at his pathetic accusations that God is withholding good from us.
With a heart full of thankfulness to the generous giver who showers us with every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), we barrel over with incredulity and shout, “He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
Joy in Jesus is a very serious business. It silences the fool who would have you believe there is something greater than fullness of joy in the presence of Jesus and pleasures forevermore at his right hand (Psalm 16:11). Thanksgiving reminds ourselves that the devil’s got nothing good to offer us.
So how are praise and pies an application of Romans chapter 1?
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21 ESV)
The opposite of committing the foolish exchange of idolatry is to do the thing this passage says rebellious man does not do. We reverse idolatry by honoring the giver, by giving him thanks for his gifts.
It’s pretty impossible to give thanks to the giver as you are using his gifts as a weapon to assault his throne. So by cultivating a Spirit-empowered heart of gratitude and thanksgiving, we navigate our way through this world of potential idols with glad and generosity-saturated hearts.
Let’s use pie as an example. Pie makes a wonderful gift, but a terrible god. If you find yourself tempted to believe that a slice of blueberry crisp is going to offer you any kind of ultimate satisfaction or comfort, it will inevitably betray you. You can indulge to the point that you make yourself sick, or elbow your neighbor who threatens to take your last precious bite, and you will feel empty and shameful afterward.
Or you can receive your pie with thanksgiving, recognizing that a slice of pecan pie contains ten thousand graces from a masterfully creative God.
Marvel with me at a God who created grains that can be ground and mixed with butter and eggs to form a dough that, chemically transformed by fire creates a flaky, crispy crust. God created a rich diversity of flavors from the meaty protein in the seed of a tree from central America (the pecan tree) that you can toast to bring out its natural oils and sprinkle with salt that adds definition to the complexity of flavors, and then combine that topping with a warm and gooey sweet mixture of caramelized sugar with the cool smoothness of vanilla, and (of course) more butter. All of these diverse ingredients were God’s idea!
And even further, God made man in his image, with a similar creative impulse and a command to subdue this good creation and explore all the wonderful properties latent within pecan trees and chicken’s eggs and search out what glories await.
Even more reason to give thanks: that slice of pie was made for your enjoyment by your friend who loves you enough to provide for your nutrition—not with prosaic, bland, raw ingredients—but through delightfully creative combinations of flavors.
All this in a piece of pie, to show you something of God’s overflowing and extravagant nature. Let your heart burst in worship to God over his graces in something as simple as a piece of pie.
But we have so much more reason than pie to give thanks to God. We worship a God who knew our rebellious hearts would be deceived by the insanity of sin. We bought into the lie that caused us to take created things (like pie) and ignore the generosity of the God who gave them. And we chose to live our lives as though we owed something to the gift rather than the Giver.
In fact, the our distortion was far more serious than prioritizing pastries. We gave ourselves body and soul to serving creation rather than the Creator. And we rightly deserved destruction.
But God not only made a way for our guilt to be transferred to another, he also gave us his own Spirit to restore our brokenness of mind. We have been brought from death to life by the blood of His Son.
So, Thanksgiving is about reversing the idolatry.
We are prone to wander. We have a worship problem that robs us of joy and steals glory from God. But God has a solution in Christ, that removes our guilt and reverses our gullibility to Satan’s lies.
Therefore we honor the giver by thanking him for redemption in Jesus Christ. We thank him for this good creation he has given us, a creation with with pies and aardvarks and breezes and oboes. And we give him thanks for the promise of a new heaven and new earth, where we will enjoy his presence fully in a restored creation without sin or pain or sorrow anymore.