Gratitude's Three-Fold Cord
The Bible teaches us that a cord of three strands cannot be broken. The illustration is, of course, the picture of a braided rope where three strands are wound together. A single strand may be broken and even two, but three together form a strong bond that cannot be broken. Applying this simple picture of wisdom I want to reflect a little on the unbreakable obligation of gratitude.
Simply defined gratitude is the expression of appreciation to someone or for something. Biblically, gratitude is the expression of appreciation to God.And there are, if I can put it this way, three strands that make up the cord of gratitude.
First, gratitude is our purpose. The Psalmist has taught us to sing "I will magnify him with thanksgiving" (Psalm 69:30). There's really two ways to magnify something. One can use a microscope or magnifying glass which makes something that is small appear larger than it really is. Then there's the magnification of a telescope which begins to see something that is great appear in its greatness. So, there is a definition of "magnify" that means to extol or to cause to be held in high esteem. When the Psalmist says he will magnify God it's not that he's going to make a small God appear bigger than he is, but that he will hold God in high esteem -- he will glorify him. To glorify God is the very purpose of our existence: "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever" (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 1). The Psalmist recognizes that this is done, in part, through giving God thanks. In thanking God we are fulfiling the purpose for which he has created and redeemed us.
Second, gratitude is our privilege. There is, perhaps, no better explanation of the gospel in all the Bible than what we find in the book of Romans. As Paul develops with meticulous detail the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation. The first thing he tells the church in Rome is why they need the gospel. They need Jesus, he writes, because they are sinful. Usually, when we think of "sinners" we attribute the worst of crimes to them -- murderers, adulterers, liars, etc. But here's how Paul defined the sin of humanity: "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). The sinfulness in humanity is summarized, in part, by a failure to give thanks. This is why we need the gospel. To be set free from the chains of ingratitdue so that we can honor God as God and give thanks to him. What a privilege the gospel bestows upon us!
Third, gratitude is our precept. The last strand in the cord of gratitude is that it's commanded of us. We are commanded to thank God. When Paul was writing to the Thessalonians he said: "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:19). There's no jumping through hoops to try to figure out God's will here -- God wills that we be thankful. Later, in writing to the same church Paul will say: "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right" (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Notice the double emphasis -- it should be done and it's right to do so. And in Colossians he wrote: "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (3:17).
This is the three-fold cord of gratitude. To give thanks to God is our purpose, it's our privilege, and it's our precept. This puts all of us under the greatest obligation to express appreciation to God. As you gather this week with friend and family around a well-spread table, take some time to magnify God with thanksgiving.