Paul lays out two paths we can walk in: gratitude or ingratitude. We will either be people who give thanks or grumble. They are not simply destinations, a place (or practice) we eventually arrive at, but they’re the paths directing our steps either towards God or away from Him. Yes, gratitude is that important. Giving thanks is no cherry on top of the Christian life we toss in on rare occasions. It is the meat and potatoes, the heart and soul of following God.
(The following is a Communion meditation shared in my local church as we look forward to the Thanksgiving holiday.)
The Lord’s Supper is also called Communion or even the Eucharist. That latter term, Eucharist, comes from the greek word eucharisteo, which means “to give thanks.” In Luke 22, when Jesus instituted this meal, breaking the bread and drinking the cup, it says he did so by “giving thanks.” Since we’re less than two weeks away from what might be my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, I thought it might help us approach Communion today by considering why it’s a meal about giving thanks.
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord.” (Psalm 92:1)
Thanksgiving: Doctrine before Drumsticks
In our day and age of more-more-more where “Thanksgiving” is the waiting season between Halloween and Christmas, gratitude often takes a back seat. It’s no surprise being thankful struggles to compete for attention with a holiday where I get to literally make a list of things I want that people will buy me.
It’s easy to blame “the world” around me, but I’ll admit that while I know God is the source of all things in my life, it doesn’t mean thanksgiving makes it into my day-to-day rhythms like it should. I tend to go through most days taking gifts for granted and unaware of ways God worked on my behalf. I’d prefer getting things over giving thanks. And when I don’t get what I want–whether on Christmas or any other day–I complain and feel gipped.
“It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.” Tim Keller
“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“I like to think of thankfulness as God’s ‘spiritual air freshener.’ It replaces the stale odor of resentment with clean, fresh-smelling air for the soul to breathe.” Gary Thomas,
In addition to “no shave November” there are other challenges you might take on in this month. A couple personal ones are saying yes to pumpkin anything and downing as much Thanksgiving Blend coffee from Starbucks as possible (while it’s around). It’s a month of food and feasting, and that is certainly something I can give thanks for with a full heart (and stomach)!
(For an updated reading plan different from what’s below, see this blog.)
If you’re looking for some additional resources and ways to practice giving thanks, here’s a place to start.
- Read a book specifically on thanksgiving or gratitude. Some recommendations would be Thanksgiving by David Pao; The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney; One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp; Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss; or God is the Gospel by John Piper.
- If a book seems like a bit too much of a commitment right now, read one of the following articles.
- Listen to a sermon on thanksgiving.
- Sing Christian hymns or worship songs related to the theme of giving thanks.
- Do something as a family that makes this an enjoyable and memorable experience, such as a gratitude tree.
- As you interact with other Christians—in formal settings such as small group or informal settings like work or a restaurant—ask them what God has done for them that they’re thankful for.
- If things like gratitude trees are a bit too artsy for you, just keep a list of things you can thank God for. Keep a journal, a sheet of paper in your Bible, or use something on your phone like “Notes” to record and revisit these reasons for thanksgiving.
Below is a list of 30 verses that mention giving thanks, thanksgiving, or thankfulness. I’d encourage you to read them at the start of your morning and meditate on (chew on) then throughout the day. There are plenty of related words in the Bible tied to this theme we could have looked at, or even words showing the problem with a lack of thanksgiving (such as ingratitude or murmuring). A quick word search on Logos resulted in 132 occurrences of thank/thanks/thankful and 38 occurrences of thanksgiving. So this is meant to be a starter rather than an exhaustive list. Hopefully it helps cement the importance of and joy in giving thanks in your heart, as well as providing some specific examples of what it looks like in the Bible.
Day 1: 1 Chr. 29:10-13
Day 2: Ps. 30:4
Day 3: Ps. 100:4
Day 4: Col. 1:3, 12
Day 5: Col. 2:7
Day 6: Col. 3:15-17
Day 7: Col. 4:2
Day 8: Ps. 107:1, 21-22
Day 9: Ps. 118:1, 19-21, 28-29
Day 10: Luke 17:16 (see 17:11-19)
Day 11: John 6:11, 23
Day 12: John 11:41
Day 13: Ps. 50:23
Day 14: 1 Cor. 11:23-24
Day 15: 2 Cor. 2:14
Day 16: 2 Cor. 4:15
Day 17: 2 Cor. 9:11-15
Day 18: Eph. 5:4
Day 19: Eph. 5:20
Day 20: Ps. 147:7
Day 21: Ps. 136:1-3 (see all of 136)
Day 22: Phi. 1:3
Day 23: Matt. 15:36
Day 24: Acts 27:35
Day 25: Ps. 138
Day 26: 1 Thess. 3:9
Day 27: 1 Thess. 5:18
Day 28: 1 Tim. 4:3
Day 29: Rev. 4:9
Day 30: Rev. 7:12