This post comes in the recent aftermath of Thanksgiving and so I thought it might be appropriate to discuss giving thanks, which I am currently trying to make a more habitual practice (that is finding more occasions during the day to give thanks and for a greater variety of blessings that I would usually take for granted). But in a biblical context, what do we mean by giving thanks?
Giving thanks acknowledges the truth of God’s sovereignty and goodness.
The giving of thanks to the Lord is simply an acknowledgment that there is a God and that everything good in our life comes from him. This concept of acknowledging our blessings is encapsulated in the Book of James, in which the Lord’s brother writes “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17 English Standard Version). Though we may go through many trials and tribulations, we are always surrounded by goodness and grace, our very breath is a gift from God. I pray Lord Jesus Christ that you open our eyes to see all of your marvelous, wonderful and blessed thoughts toward us, that this may redound in thanksgiving to you.
Thanksgiving means humility. We should not take any blessing from God for granted.
The Book of Luke contains a story of ten lepers that came to our Lord to be healed, and all did receive their healing, yet only one returned to give thanks: “he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks” (Luke 17:16 ESV). The act of falling face down and acknowledging Jesus Christ as our healer was part of his giving thanks. I confess that I rarely if ever fall down on my face and give thanks to the Lord, rarely do I humble myself to such an extent, but that doesn’t mean I (or we as Christians) should not, rather we should bow down and give thanks to the Lord and humble ourselves before him.
Thanksgiving includes praise of the Lord and testifying to his good works.
In the same story of the ten lepers who were healed we read of the thankful leper praising in a loud voice for his healing (Luke 17:14). This praising in a loud voice not only includes the act of praise but by the very volume of his praise it is implied that others will hear of this healing and it will serve as a testimony of the goodness of Jesus Christ, hopefully turning others to him.
So we see that thanksgiving is a broader concept than I believe is traditionally understood. Finally, why is it important for us to give thanks? It demonstrates and affirms our faith and understanding of the nature of God, of his goodness. Returning to the story of the healed leper, our Lord Christ says “your faith has made you well!” (Luke 17:19 ESV). Truly, thanksgiving is what makes us “well” because it means we know God and acknowledge him as God, we are healed from that greatest of afflictions, sin, and the death it brings (Romans 6:10).
“[G]ive thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV).