(This devotion is day five of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
As a kid, one of my parents would give me money to buy the other parent a birthday gift. Even when I had an allowance or helped around the house, any money spent on cards or gifts came from my mom or dad. I had nothing to give them they didn’t provide first.
In the Old Testament, Israel worshipped and honored God through various religious sacrifices and offerings. The thanksgiving offering (Lev. 7:11–15) was different. It wasn’t an obligation. No one had to do it. A person gave it to God out of the overflow of thankfulness in their heart. They might give thanks as an act of worship, because of an answered prayer, or in response to God’s work in their life. As the Bible’s redemptive storyline progresses, this thanksgiving offering connects not only to a material sacrifice, but it can include a sacrifice of praise, financial gifts, prayers, singing, or offering our lives as a grateful offering (see Rom. 12:1–2).
But like children who borrow dad’s money to buy him a gift, anything we give to God we first receive from Him. That includes money, time, talents, obedience, or even our prayers and praises. We wouldn’t have breath in our lungs, praise in our hearts, or a dime to our name apart from God’s grace. Admitting everything comes from God doesn’t belittle our gift; it helps us hold things loosely and give thanks quickly.
In 1 Chronicles 29, David throws a party after commissioning his son Solomon. As he seeks to fund the temple, he doesn’t tax the people or command donations. He encourages them to give according to what God has given them. Nothing motivates thankfulness and worship of God like remembering God’s goodness and grace.
Grace makes us grateful, and gratitude spawns generosity. They believe God provides and it frees them to give back to Him. Because they believe God blesses them in countless ways, they thank Him. And because God has fought their battles for them, preserving them to this very day, they give thanks for the past and trust Him for the future.
David leads Israel in a prayer of thanksgiving that dwells on God’s attributes and acts. Yours is the greatness, power, glory, victory, and majesty (29:11). Everything in heaven above and earth below belongs to God. He is the King and the universe is his kingdom. They are His people. As the wealthy king, all riches and honor bestowed on the citizens come from Him (29:12).
Don’t forget this is David, the famous king of Israel. Most kings and presidents across history become drunk on their power. But David stays humble because his eyes remain on God. Knowledge of God provides perspective. He would not be king apart from God. He would not have wealth to give or victories apart from God. Any wisdom, strength, or gifts and abilities David possessed were God given, and he knew it.
Anything we have, we receive. God gives it. We echo David by saying, “And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name” (29:13).
This humbles David. He asks, “But who am I, and what is my people, that we could give anything to you” (29:14a; NLT)?
Where I’m prone to grumble the “Why me?” question against God out of entitlement, David asks the “Why me?” question honored and humbled before God. A right view of God transforms our grumbling into gratitude. A right view of self humbles the proud, producing thanksgiving for what we’ve received. “For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you” (29:14b).
We either see ourselves as the cause of the good things in our life, which leads to clutching onto them or boasting in them, or we credit God and give Him the glory. We will be self-centered or God-centered, but one of the two will be at the center of everything. David’s God-centeredness stands behind his humility, dependence, and thankfulness.
From Him and through Him and to Him
David continues to unpack this life-shifting perspective in his words (29:15–17). We offer thanksgiving with our words, but it also comes out in our deeds. In verses 20–22, Israel offers costly sacrifices to God. They give to God eagerly because of how God extravagantly blessed them. It isn’t a way to repay God but to rejoice in God. Gratitude to God leads to joy in God, which leads to thanksgiving for God. All things are from Him, through Him, and to Him (Rom. 11:36).
Today’s section from 1 Chronicles 29 should awaken gratitude for who God is and all He’s done for us and given to us. Everything we have, we received.
Where in your life have you’ve experienced God’s provision, wisdom, blessing, protection, victory, and strength? What are blessings in your life, big or small? How can you give Him thanks in words and in your life?
To spur your gratitude, read through the prayer of 29:10–13 again. Find ten things David thanks God for. Personalize these and pray them back to God.
To go deeper in biblical thanksgiving and understand how it leads us to know and enjoy God, check out my book The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of A Lost Spiritual Discipline.