This post is not a week late. Most of our readers in the United States celebrated Thanksgiving last week and are perhaps all turkey-ed out and ready to move on to another holiday season. Which makes now the perfect time to remember that the giving of thanks isn’t something a follower of Jesus can relegate to one time of year. Rather, a quick tour through the Bible will show us that giving thanks is part of the very fabric of what it means and looks like to be a Christian.
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)
When Paul is searching for the right description of unbelievers, he says simply that unbelievers are those who, knowing God, refuse to honor and thank him. In other words, a lack of gratitude is a sign of unbelief. Therefore, gratitude toward God is itself a sign of true faith.
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)
As Paul describes the trials and blessings of the ministry of the gospel, he lands on this marvelous truth: that wherever God’s grace goes, the purpose of that grace is to increase thanksgiving to God. Who among us would mark thanksgiving as the purpose of evangelism and missions? And yet gratitude matters so much to God that He does just that.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
Many times throughout his letters, Paul gives both examples and commands of prayer. And both by example and command he shows that giving thanks isn’t an extraordinary or optional part of Christian prayer. Without thanksgiving, prayer becomes demanding rather than submissive, self-serving rather than God-honoring. Gratitude is an essential element in Christian prayer. (Phil. 4:6-7)
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psalm 100:4)
When the Psalms call us to worship, they often ask us to bring this one thing: thanksgiving. We don’t have to live up to a dress code for worship or a price of admission or even innocence itself. But we do have to bring thankful hearts. Thanksgiving is an essential part of Christian worship. (Ps. 95:2)
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4)
In our increasingly filthy, foolish and crude world, what should our words be doing instead? Rather than simply encouraging us to pure, wise and help speech, Paul exhorts us to replace sinful speech with thanksgiving! Giving thanks to God is how Christian speech is to be marked in this world.
All the examples above – and there are many more – are offered for this purpose: to remind us that God delights in thanksgiving and values it much more highly than we often do. So rather than letting thanksgiving be a once-a-year event, our call is to make it a regular part of our prayers and walk before the Lord.