Galatians 5:16

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16
Put that fork down! When I first read this verse, I laughed out loud at the irony of not gratifying our flesh appetites on this national day of prime rib and Amazon Prime. We feast on the richest foods, generous cuts of meat, vegetables glazed with butter and honey, plump rolls and crusty breads, and not only a sliver of pie to end it, but pies—plural—to choose from, thick and custardy and topped with sweet cream. And when we pause in our feasting, we may loll about on couches or scroll through social media feeds, letting our minds graze on the empty calories of apps and ads designed to keep us consuming with one-click shopping and two-day shipping.
How is it that on Thanksgiving Day, this day of gratitude, we spend time gratifying the desires of our flesh?
If we contemplate this verse and the timing of it, we may notice the shared Latin root of gratify and gratitude. But Paul didn’t write this ancient letter to the Galatians in Latin; he wrote it in Greek and there is no shared root.
The Greek word for gratify in this verse is telesēte, meaning end, finish, fulfill, accomplish. In this case, it means to fulfill the desires of our flesh, desires that go far beyond overeating and overspending. We know what happens when human beings live and move and speak according to the desires of our flesh. When we go after whatever we want without regard for others, we wound people and we wound ourselves and relationships and dreams die.
This word, telesēte, derives from the same root, telos, that Jesus spoke just before his death on the cross. “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).
On this day of giving thanks, we can be grateful that it IS finished. Jesus, God in flesh, took the full punishment for the sins of our flesh, accomplishing what no other work or sacrifice ever could and offering salvation to us. Jesus gave up his Spirit on the cross, but God freely gives His Holy Spirit to all who believe (Ephesians 1:14).
This grace moves our hearts into true thanksgiving, what is in known in Greek as eucharisteo.  And, as always, Jesus shows us the way. At the last supper with his disciples, Jesus himself gave  thanks when he broke the bread, knowing the full cost of grace, enduring the cross for the joy set before Him.
“Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning ‘joy’” (Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts).
When we walk by the Spirit on this Thanksgiving Day, and every day, we do not need to gratify the flesh, because our spirits have tasted the Bread of Life and the Living Water. We break bread in a spirit of gratitude and joy, stomachs full, and hearts fully turned to the Giver of every daily gift and the hope of our salvation for all eternity.
Questions for Reflection:

  1. Read Galatians 5:16-26. Compare the works of the flesh to the fruit of the Spirit. What fruit would you like to see more of in your life. Pray, asking God to make the fruit of the Spirit evident in your words and actions.
  2. On this Thanksgiving Day, 2020, what are you thankful for? As you gather with family around the table, share your gratitude for the gifts God has given you.
Rebecca Janni | Author

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