Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Give Thanks": What Does That Actually Mean?

Today is the American Thanksgiving.

For most of you, this means that you're spending time with family and extended family, making turkey and chicken and other Thanksgiving goodies, and preparing to stuff yourself silly (if you haven't already).

For us in Liberia, it means we have a chance to relax and enjoy the company of some other Americans (and their American food).  And yes, I fully plan on stuffing myself silly.

Besides the food, though, Thanksgiving is known for (what else?) "giving thanks".  But what does this look like?  We've heard "give thanks" so often; what does it actually mean?

The sheer number of references to thanksgiving in Scripture is overwhelming.  Here's just a sampling:


Psalms 7:17: "I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High."

Psalms 35:18: "I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you."

Psalms 69:30: "I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving."

Psalms 105:1: "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."

1 Corinthians 1:4: "I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus."

2 Corinthians 9:11: "You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God."

Ephesians 5:4: "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving."

Ephesians 5:19-20: "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Philippians 4:6: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

Colossians 3:17: "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."


They even had entire psalms devoted for one purpose: to give thanks.  To praise God for what He has given us.

Obviously it's important, and obviously we're supposed to do it.

How do we do it?

Recently I've been reading a book by Francis A. Schaeffer called "True Spirituality".  Listen to his notes on giving thanks:


Then we find in Colossians 3:15: "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to that which ye are called in one body, and be ye thankful."  And verse 17: "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him."  And again in Colossians 4:2: "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving."

These words about thanksgiving are in one sense hard words.  They are beautiful, but they do not give us any room to move—the "all things" includes all things.

We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."  And this is linked to the next verse, verse 19: "Quench not the Spirit."  Surely one thing is clear.  God says to us: in everything give thanks.

I think we can see all this in its proper perspective if we go back to Romans 1:21: "Because that, when they knew God, the glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasoning, and their foolish heart was darkened."  This is the central point: they were not thankful.  Instead of giving thanks they "became vain in their reasoning and their foolish heart was darkened."  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.  The beginning of mens' rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart.  They did not have proper, thankful hearts—seeing themselves as creatures before the Creator and being bowed not only in their knees, but in their stubborn hearts.  The rebellion is a deliberate refusal to be the creature before the Creator, to the extent of being thankful.

Love must carry with it a "Thank you," not in a superficial or "official" way, but in being thankful and saying in the mind or with the voice, "Thank you" to God.

—"True Spirituality" by Francis A. Schaeffer, pgs. 11-12


Thankgiving, then, is humbling ourselves before the Creator of all and praising Him for what He has been gracious to give us.  And when we're giving thanks, we must be giving thanks in everything.

Why do we give thanks?  Because God deserves the glory.

We are creatures before an almighty God—and yet He has seen fit to give us so many things, even the death of His own Son.  How can we not be grateful?  And that's what Thanksgiving is, and must be—gratefulness and praise flowing from our mouths to the God who has graciously given us all things!

Glorify to God for what He has done this Thanksgiving: for the food, for the company, for the blessings of the past year, and yes, even for the trials of the past year.  We are strong in His presence—but we must enter His presence with a thankful heart.

In everything, give thanks.


Abbey said...

In one of the Psalms the Bible says something along the lines of people were hired by the king so give thanks to God. Can you imagine what sort of job that would be? =)
Have a great Thanksgiving in Liberia!

Una Mariah said...

Very random comment, but reading over the snippets of your stories you've posted on here makes me despair about my own novel. *slams head into desk* Speaking of which, I really ought to be writing. Good luck with NaNo, tell you sister I am supremely jealous of her =D and a prayer that I will hit my word-count goal on time would be EXTREMELY appreciated. Bye!

Ninja Tim said...

We talk a lot about giving thanks in this season, but very rarely have I seen it linked back to Scripture so fully and comprehensively. Props. =)

By the way, your comments on giving thanks in all things made me think of this beautiful video:

Hope you had an excellent time of thanksgiving in Liberia!