Thanksgiving is a fine concept and a wonderful holiday. But what do we really do to express our thanksgiving? Is it enough to merely eat turkey and spend time with family? Isn’t there a way to make Thanksgiving even more meaningful?
Thanksgiving isn’t just an American tradition. It’s a Christian virtue. All throughout Scripture, we hear echoes of thanksgiving. We read commands to give thanks. We see songs of thanksgiving all throughout the Psalms.
As Christians, we can do something so much more significant. So how do you express your thanksgiving? The best place to turn to is the Bible itself.
1. Thanksgiving is expressed by song.
The book of Psalms is basically a songbook. Our book of Psalms is what the Israelites used as songs in their worship services. Since many of the psalms are quite clearly “Songs of Thanksgiving,” it’s obvious that thanksgiving can be shown in song. At other places in the Old Testament, we read great eloquent passages of Thanksgiving. In the Hebrews, these are written in poetic meter, suggesting that the songs themselves are poems that can be set to music (e.g. Isaiah 12:1; Jeremiah 33:11). Thanks is meant to be sung.
2. Thanksgiving is expressed in prayer.
Just as many of the Scripture’s thanksgiving passages are songs, many are also prayers. A lot of the psalms themselves are prayers. One of the most expansive episodes of thanksgiving in the Old Testament is a prayer to God (1 Chronicles 16). If you think about it, if we’re thanking God, then all thanksgiving must by necessity be prayer.
3. Thanksgiving is expressed to God.
The most important aspect of giving thanks is the person who receives our thanks. After all, it’s not just about expressing an empty thanks. “Being grateful” is fine, but unless there is someone to receive that gratitude, it is essentially meaningless. True Christian thanksgiving is directed to God (2 Chronicles 20:21). Nearly every mention of “thanks” in the Bible has God as the object of that thanks. Even when Paul, for example, is rejoicing in the maturity of believers, he thanks God, not the believers themselves.
We have so much to be thankful for. You’ve probably thought this or said this yourself. Much of what we’re thankful for is food, shelter, clothing, health, etc. Yet there is so much beyond these material things for which we can be thankful. Take a look at some of the Psalms to see what else there is to be thankful for. Psalms 7:17 reads, “I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness.” In 1 Chronicles 29:11-13, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty….We thank you, our God.” We can thank God for his amazing, infinite, incredible attributes.
By thanking God, we remind ourselves of how great and wonderful our God truly is. This Thanksgiving, we can sing, pray, and thank God. In the words of the book of Revelation,
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.” (Revelation 11:17)