THEOLOGY OF THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving day is just around the corner, and the thought of being with family and friends over the holiday elicits many fond memories of amazing food, laughter, game playing, football, and yes, a stomach in turmoil from overeating. I can remember all the meals that I enjoyed at my grandparents: uncles and aunts, cousins and the like, all gathered in one place to share a smorgasbord of tastebud tantalizing family specialities. As I think back on those days my mind flashes with picture after picture of the scenes, the people, and the happiness I felt at being together with loved ones in a warm home, while the chill in the air, and the trees all along the mountains, with their leaves wrestled away from their spot on the branches, forewarned us that winter was on the way.

I also can remember how my understanding of “thanksgiving” was more related to a day, that particular day on our calendar, rather than thankfulness for gifts received or any number of blessings I was enjoying in my life. “Thank you” was  an expected statement after receiving something and an ignorant sentiment at the kitchen table before we were able to indulge ourselves, at least for me it was.

Now that I am much older, hopefully far wiser, I have come to understand the importance of a thankful heart and the theology behind it. Biblical thanksgiving or thankfulness is not just a mere response to things that we have been given; God’s kindnesses towards us, but it is also our response to what we have learned about Him by receiving those kindnesses in our day to day living. We should be thankful for the gifts and the acts of kindness God chooses to bless us with, but we should also look beyond the gifts to the gift giver and think on what we can learn about Him, because it is there that we will find true thankfulness in our hearts.

Whether God blesses us directly or through others, we can, if we take the time, learn more about His Heart towards us. We can learn more about Him by seeing His attributes on display, His character and nature presented before us in ways we might have missed, if it were not for His benevolent spirit towards us.

This is what we find in the Bible. In any of the prayers that Paul offers in his epistles, specifically those of thankfulness, we find his joy and thankfulness are due to the grace, wisdom, and power of God working in the lives of people for their salvation and spiritual growth (Philippians 1:1-6; Ephesians 1:15-16; Colossians 1:3-5, for example). Another telling illustration of this is found in Luke 17:11-19, in the story about the ten lepers. One of the lepers, a Samaritan, when he realizes that he had been healed from this dreadful disease: “turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him” (v.16). This man fell down at the Lords feet in gratitude. His thankfulness became an act of worship! Yes, he is very happy at becoming clean again, but his greater joy seems to be in what he learned about Jesus through the healing.

Jumping back into the Old Testament, we see thanksgiving as a part of God centered worship, especially in the Psalms. I will share only two examples for the sake of time. Psalm 9 appears to be the first Psalm of thanksgiving. In it David praises God for His attribute of justice, and through this hymn of praise worships Him. In Psalm 30, David, through cycles of lament and praise, expresses his thankfulness toward God for healing him, protecting him, comforting him, hearing and answering him. Meditate on that a bit and you should quickly recognize some of the attributes of God that led David to worship Him though this Psalm.  

God is pleased when we recognize and acknowledge His kindness towards us in the things He provides. But I think He is even more pleased when we worship Him because of what we discovered about Him through His provision. Another writer, Pastor Trevor Bates, writing on the theology of thanksgiving, made this statement: “As we give thanks to God, we not only confess we should have nothing good apart from him (James 1:17; 1 Corinthians 4:7), but we also consider who he is.” Jesus should always be the “centerpiece” of our thanksgiving.

I have benefited from this book in my study on the topic of thanksgiving. For a small book, 82 pages, Pastor Bates has done an amazing job of bringing out the theology behind thanksgiving. By focusing on the Psalms he shows that in them are countless times in which thankfulness is mentioned and explained. You can check it out by clicking the picture above. As an Amazon Associate I earn commission from qualifying purchases, this helps to support this ministry, thank you.

You can also check out my review of this book by going here: https://7waysfromsunday.com/book-reviews/

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