What's Thanksgiving Got to Do With It?

What’s Thanksgiving Got to Do With It?
By Mark Lauterbach

In a few weeks, we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Our sense of urgency about gratitude may be diluted by the busyness of the season. My question is this: Is giving thanks a high priority for us as people who have come to know the true God?

God says it is. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t.

Paul summarizes the response of fallen humans to the revelation of God’s glory in creation.

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God. . ..”
(Rom 1:21 ESV)

First, we do not honor him as God. That means we do not treat him as of greatest worth. We worship things created rather than the Creator.

But then he surprises:

“. . . they did not honor him as God or give thanks.” (Rom 1:21 ESV) 

If I were writing Romans, I would not have made that #2. I would not have said that the first fruit of dishonoring God is not thanking God! God sees lack of thanksgiving to him as a great offense against his greatness. How can that be? Let me suggest a few possibilities:

  1. I refuse to give thanks because I do not like how God rules my world. When he does not run things as I would desire, I question his goodness and wisdom. I can thank him for good gifts but not be thankful to him when he sends trials.
  1. I refuse to give thanks because I think I deserve the good gifts he sends my way. Why thank God for doing what he is supposed to do? In a sense, I take him for granted.

Let me summarize: If my life is characterized by grumbling, complaining, and a critical spirit – if I am never happy unless things go the way I want them to – I am accusing God of wrong-doing. I question his wisdom and goodness whenever he disappoints me or does not fulfill my expectations. That is slander.

But it may also reveal another heart issue. If my heart is not a “grateful to God” heart, it may be an indication of a sense of entitlement.

But we have a better hope and truth that enables us to reset our hearts and war against the roots of ingratitude.

First, the Gospel is the amazing news that God worked our salvation by giving his Son for us. And he accomplished this through injustice, hatred, oppression, torture, and rejection. God wisely brought an infinite good through the vilest circumstances and sins against Jesus. If that is true, then surely, I can thank God he is able to do the same for me, even when he sends severe trials. My sorrows and suffering are not the last word. Jesus’ triumph in future glory is.

Trust him and give thanks.

Second, the Gospel is the amazing news that God does not deal with us according to our sins. That what we deserve is wrath, but what we receive is the full and free forgiveness of all our transgressions through Jesus’ death for us. My entitlement is not to mercy and goodness, it is to condemnation. So, I have every reason to give thanks to God now. I can look at all his favors and gifts to me and know they come from the hand of him who loves me and will only do me good.

Trust him and give thanks.