3 Unavoidable Truths About Giving Thanks

We say “thank you” a lot. It’s one of the first things we teach our kids to say. The variety of Thank You cards at the store is astounding. In fact, we say it so much, that we can easily forget (okay, I can easily forget) all that is implied in those two little words. So here goes…

1. To give thanks is to confess the reality of the God who created us. Animals have no reason to give thanks. Products of genetic processes, instinctual behavior, and behavior based on mutual needs do not have the need to give thanks to anyone but themselves. There are those who give thanks to such forces as Mother Nature or other evolved creatures such as the next door neighbor, but to thank such a thing is no different than thanking a door because it happened to be where I needed it to be or an apple for being so apple-ish. Impersonal forces require no such acknowledgment.

2. To give thanks is to recognize the importance of community. Someone else provided something that was a benefit and a blessing to you. You received from them something that you did not have before they gave it to you. We were created for such a community, and every time we receive good from another, be it a word or a gesture or a thing, we are acknowledging that life is inescapably covenantal. We serve a Triune God who Himself exists in perfect fellowship. That is why He is love. Giving thanks shows what it means to be truly human, made in the image of God.

3. To give thanks is to express the need for grace. Other than deeply rooted cultural norms, there is really no reason to give thanks for something that you really and truly deserve or earn. Why do I say thank you to the man behind the register for the candy bar (preferably a Hershey bar) that I just paid for with my own money? Because “every good and perfect gift comes from above.” It is grace that I have the health, the ability, the opportunity, and the means to earn the dollar I just handed to the cashier. It is grace that thousands of people, amazing technology, and adequate harvests of the cocoa bean make that little chocolate miracle in my hand. Thankfulness is an expression of grace-filled wonder. The moment we stop remembering that we deserve nothing good, that all our best efforts fall far short of the blessings we enjoy, is the moment our thank you’s become empty platitudes. Behind every act of giving thanks is the subtle message of the gospel. A debt has been paid, a slave has been freed, an outcast has been adopted, a dead man has been raised.

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