August 21, 2017

Why Do We Give Thanks?

Every year around November 1, the online stratosphere gets inundated with thankfulness challenges. That’s not a bad thing! I love the rise of gratitude each year, seeing people becoming more aware of all the ways God blesses us everyday.

But have you ever stopped to consider why we practice gratitude? Is it just because it’s the “thing to do” around Thanksgiving? Or is there a greater purpose behind developing a habit of thankfulness?

I was recently reading Ephesians 5, and realized how tightly the command to give thanks is woven throughout the entire chapter. It’s not just a stand-alone command: it’s something that affects every aspect of our lives as Christians.

Offering thanksgiving is the loving way to interact with others (v.2-4)

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

We are instructed to walk in love. But impure or crude language is derogatory, hurtful, and downright mean — the very opposite of love. So what type of speech is the opposite of cruel language? Philippians 4:8 comes to mind — things that are honest, just, pure, lovely, etc. Thanksgiving clearly fits within those parameters:

  • We cannot offer genuine gratitude in an unloving manner.
  • We cannot offer genuine gratitude that is dishonest or unlovely.
  • We cannot offer genuine gratitude that tears another down.

Offering thanksgiving is characteristic of “walking as children of light” (v.8-10)

For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

We are children of light, and our speech must reflect that. So what is light characterized by? Goodness. Health. Beauty. Openness. Brightness. Life. What kind of speech sounds like that?

  • Words that uplift, encourage, and cheer.
  • Words that show love and breathe life into others.

There are many words that those qualities could describe… but one of them is certainly thanksgiving. It builds others up. It lightens our own hearts and renews our minds. It is the opposite of dull speech that quenches life and health. It is not obscure, but open. It is not gloomy, but beautiful.

Offering thanksgiving is a wise way to redeem the time (v.15-16)

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

If thanksgiving shows love to others, and reflects the light of Christ, then isn’t it a way to truly “redeem the time”? A way to walk in wisdom? A way to combat the dark evil of this age?

Gratitude is in direct opposition to backbiting, betrayal, slander, complaining, whining, crudeness, tactlessness, and careless speech. It is a valid way to “buy time back” from the god of this world and use it for God’s purposes. It is a valid way to invest in eternal things and store up treasures in heaven, since it builds others up and turns our hearts to meditate on God’s blessings.

Offering thanksgiving is a sign of being Spirit-filled and controlled (v.18-20)

Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Love. Light. Wisdom. All attributes of God, and all signs of being filled with the Spirit. Gratitude is not the only thing that characterizes being Spirit-filled — after all, unbelievers can be grateful too — but how much more should we as God’s children be defined by thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is not just a seasonal thing. It’s not just a #trendingtopic. If we claim to be Christians, then every day of our lives must be characterized by thanksgiving. Every thought, every interaction, must be built on a foundation of gratitude.

give thanks

Thanksgiving ought to be a daily habit for every one of us — not just seasonally, but throughout our entire lives. It is not based on how we feel — it is a choice that we make day after day.

One way to build that habit is by keeping a gratitude journal, and write down one or two things every night that you’re thankful for. This post outlines a few more suggestions for cultivating a spirit of thankfulness. And if you’re subscribed to my newsletters, I’ll be sending out a free thankfulness-themed desktop background on Thursday! {If you’re not, sign up here.}

Got any other ideas for building a lifelong habit of thankfulness? Share them in the comments!

 


Comments

  1. Elizabeth, I’d never connected all of these to thanksgiving. Enjoyed your insights very much.