We humans have to work hard at being thankful. When we give something to our toddlers we prompt, “Now what do you say?” Worse yet, when those toddlers become adolescents, we parents still have to say, “Did you forget something?” Only to hear the reply, “oh yeah, thhaaannnkkss.” (Can’t you just hear the attitude?)
Unfortunately, we don’t get a whole lot better as adults. Sincere, unsolicited gratitude as a natural response to a kindness given can be rare. Yet, this is the very picture Scripture paints of the thankful attitude God expects of His children.
If we want to please God, we need to be thankful. But what does that look like? What does God mean when His Word says things like:
- Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving Psalm 147:7
- …always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving presents your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the primary meaning of the root word translated in its various forms as “thanks” or “thanksgiving” in the Old Testament, is “to acknowledge or confess sin, God’s character and works, or man’s character.” The Hebrew language does not have an “independent concept of thanks.”
Based on the Old Testament understanding, the attitude of thanks we are familiar with is intertwined with confession and praise. All three – confession, praise, and thanksgiving – are the appropriate responses to who God is and what He has done. It requires that we recognize and acknowledge our sinful nature, God’s holy character, or His gracious works of kindness towards us.
New Testament Greek makes more of a distinction. The Greek word primarily translated as “thanks,” “thankfulness,” and “thanksgiving,” is eucharistia. The NT understanding of thanksgiving is a response to a grace given; the acceptance of a kindness done with the acknowledgement that it was undeserved.
Did you recognize that Greek word, eucharistia? This same word – from which we get the Latin derivation “Eucharist” – also refers to the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. The next time you participate in the Lord’s Supper remember it is an act of thanksgiving, a response to God’s ultimate act of grace!
But God’s kindness to us did not end with Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. He continuously pours out His grace. Daily, God acts towards us with kindness we do not deserve. As His undeserving children, we should constantly recognize His grace and acknowledge it before Him.
How often do we offer God thanksgiving with the wrong attitude? How often do we simply fail to acknowledge God’s kindness and grace towards us? Will you take a few minutes today to recognize and acknowledge Him for what He has done?