…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:8)
As the holidays approached, my wife and I kept noticing how store decor went from Halloween to Christmas. In fact, back in July we were at a home decor store and we noticed Christmas decorations already being displayed. We asked one of the store employees why Christmas decor was already being displayed and we were told that many customers like to purchase Christmas decor in preparation for the Christmas season, but it was all for commercial marketing. The end goal was financial capitalization. However, what we also noticed was that there was very little attention paid to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Although there is much discussion about the origin of the Thanksgiving holiday, one thing that we must understand is that it was a day set aside to respond with gratitude. According to American Colonial history, the origin of Thanksgiving originated with praises to God for His benevolence by religious separatists from England in 1620 and was made an official United States holiday on October 3, 1863 by Abraham Lincoln toward the end of the Civil War.
Read Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation
It is clear from Lincoln’s proclamation that a day of thanksgiving was to be set aside nationally as a day to thank and praise God for His abundant mercies toward the United States, even in the midst of a Civil War. Not only was it a day of thanksgiving, but it was also a day to confess national sins seeking the mercy of God. Now, I’m not here to debate the theology of Abraham Lincoln or the sincerity of his Christian profession, but to reveal what the proclamation stated. It is important to understand that the Thanksgiving holiday was started as a response to the benevolence, grace and mercy of God.
The Grounds for Thanksgiving
Every year around this time something strange happens that I’ve noticed and I imagine you have noticed it too. I hear people say, “We’re so thankful!”, “I’m thankful for….”, “I’m blessed.” These expressions of gratitude lack an object of gratitude. In other words, there are expressions of thankfulness attached to no one. They are just impersonal expressions of gratitude as if the blessings for the things that people are thankful for occur in a vacuum. There is no one on the receiving end of those impersonal expressions of gratitude. Think about that. Isn’t it strange how the human heart can detach the origin of the blessings from an expression of gratitude? Does an expression of gratitude truly make sense apart from the provider of such blessings? In my loudest voice I want to shout out, “To whom are you thankful for such things?!!”
Scripture repeatedly reminds us that God is the source of all of our blessings. The epistle of James says, “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)
But we don’t have to get that far in the Bible to understand that everything that has been given to us has been created by God. We read of this in the very first book of the Bible. And this is a refrain throughout the rest of Scripture. The Lord reminds His people, and even those who oppose Him, that He is the Lord of all and He gives and withholds according to His discretion. He causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. He alone is the person we give thanks to for everything. Without someone ultimately to thank, gratitude is meaningless.
What Thankfulness Reveals
For Christians, thankfulness ought to be as normal as breathing if we truly have grasped the gospel and its implications. If we are a thankless people, either we have not truly grasped the gospel or we are really not part of God’s elect. Consider the gospel and some of its implications: we have been freed from the Father’s wrath, there is no condemnation for us, we have been reconciled to the Father through Jesus, we are the friends of Jesus, we will receive an eternal inheritance in the new heavens and the new earth, we are no longer dominated by sin, we will no longer be afflicted by Satan, we have the Holy Spirit, we have the word of God, we have the community of the church, we have spiritual gifts, God provides our daily needs and all of the effects of sin will one day be removed from our experience. We have so much to be thankful for! Praise be to God for his indescribable gift! (Romans 11:36)
To be thankless is to stand in opposition of all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus. However, genuine expressions of gratitude by Christians reveal the fundamental truths about our nature and God’s.
• Expressions of gratitude to God reveal that we are insufficient for all things.
• Expressions of gratitude to God reveals our recognition that God is wholly the source for all things.
• Expressions of gratitude to God reveal our humility.
• Expressions of gratitude to God reveal His benevolence.
• Expressions of gratitude to God guards our hearts from having a critical spirit against God.
• Expressions of gratitude to God are forms of spiritual warfare against Satan and his demons.
• Expressions of gratitude to God are ways of inducing joy to the heart.
• Expressions of gratitude to God is worship.
Because God’s mercies are new every morning, thanksgiving should be the melody of the Christian soul.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalms 118:1)
Grace and peace,