A Biblical Perspective of Thanksgiving

Give Thanks, Today and Everyday

As we celebrate today, Thanksgiving Day with family and friends, let’s take a moment to give thanks to the One who made it all happen for you and I.

This is the day that we set aside each year to be thankful.  It goes beyond the turkey, dressing and pie.  This day is a reflection of how we all came to be.

From a purely linguistic approach, let’s talk about the word Thanksgiving and see how it has biblical application:

In the King James version of the Bible:

The word thanks appears 73 times

The word thanksgiving appears 28 times

The word thank appears 27 times

The word thanked appears 3 times

The word thankful appears 3 times

The word thanksgivings appears 2 times

The word thankfulness appears 1 time

The word thanking appears 1 time

The word thankworthy appears 1 time

Thankfulness is a big deal in the Bible. In fact, it’s one of the few specific things that we’re told is God’s will for us (1 Thes 5:18).

So, what does it mean to give thanks?

Several Greek and Hebrew words are translated “thanks” and “thanksgiving” in the Bible, but here are the big two:

Hebrew: ydh

This is the main word for thanks in the Old Testament. The concept of thanks comes up 102 times in the Old Testament, and this word is used 72 of those times. Here’s the definition:

“Acknowledging what is right about God in praise and thanksgiving (1 Chr. 16:34).”

It can also mean “a right acknowledgment of self before God in confessing sin (Lev. 26:40)[1].”

Greek: eucharisteo

Thankfulness comes up 71 times in the New Testament, and most of those instances are this word, or related to this word. The definition: “To show oneself grateful, to be thankful, to give thanks […] used in a religious sense with or without reference to God.”

Even Jesus gave thanks before eating his last supper with the apostles (1 Co 11:24).

Feeling and expressing appreciation is good for us. Like any wise father, God wants us to learn to be thankful for all the gifts He has given us (James 1:17). It is in our best interest to be reminded that everything we have is a gift from Him. Without gratefulness, we become arrogant and self-centered. We begin to believe that we have achieved everything on our own. Thankfulness keeps our hearts in right relationship to the Giver of all good gifts.

Giving thanks also reminds us of how much we do have. Human beings are prone to covetousness. We tend to focus on what we don’t have. By giving thanks continually we are reminded of how much we do have. When we focus on blessings rather than wants, we are happier. When we start thanking God for the things we usually take for granted, our perspective changes. We realize that we could not even exist without the merciful blessings of God.

First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We are to be thankful not only for the things we like, but for the circumstances we don’t like. When we choose to thank God for everything that He allows to come into our lives, we keep bitterness at bay. We cannot be both thankful and bitter at the same time. We do not thank Him for evil, but that He is sustaining us through it (James 1:12). We don’t thank Him for harm He did not cause, but we thank Him when He gives us the strength to endure it (2 Corinthians 12:9). We thank Him for His promise that “all things will work together for the good, to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

We can have thankful hearts toward God even when we do not feel thankful for the circumstance. We can grieve and still be thankful. We can hurt and still be thankful. We can be angry at sin and still be thankful toward God. That is what the Bible calls a “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15). Giving thanks to God keeps our hearts in right relationship with Him and saves us from a host of harmful emotions and attitudes that will rob us of the peace God wants us to experience (Philippians 4:6–7).

The word “Give” appears 921 times in the Bible, almost as many times as “Faith” (270), “Hope” (165), and “Love” (541) added together. Giving is an expression of faith, hope, and love.

Give is mentioned more than any other subject in the Bible:

2 times more than Heaven and Hell combined

3 times more than love

7 times more than prayer

8 times more than belief

17 of 38 parables involve the concept of giving

15% of God’s Word discusses giving

2,350 verses discuss giving

With our hectic schedules, with life coming at us at high speed, and the ever-present need to problem-solve from sun up to sundown, life quickly becomes exhausting and overwhelming. And with that exhaustion and overwhelm often comes a forgetfulness of the good things in our lives.

We’ve been focused on the hard stuff, the urgent stuff, the not-so-good stuff and have missed opportunities to give thanks. But when we purposefully and consciously take the time daily to stop and give Him thanks, we’re able to put life into perspective.

Though today’s world seems scary and uncertain, when we show our gratitude to God for all He is, all He’s given, all He continues to provide, we’re reminded of His faithfulness. When we offer up prayers of thanksgiving, our minds are opened to recall times when we’ve trusted Him and He saw us through that difficult time. He was faithful and He will be faithful.  When we give thanks, we’re further made aware of how every good and perfect thing we’re blessed with is from Him.

God is a loving Father who wants the very best for us. He yearns for our hearts to be full of praise and thanksgiving, because He knows that when that’s not the case we’re prone to discontentment.  And a heart that is discontent leads to a life of strife, jealousy, and ultimately makes us more vulnerable to the schemes of the enemy

Today, no matter how busy or hectic our schedules may be, let’s pledge our obedience to start purposefully, daily, giving thanks for how He has blessed us and for who He is.

Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

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5 comments

  1. Excellent commentary on Thanksgiving. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to share this with us. I needed it. I will let this start my “New Years Resolutions” today.

  3. Thank God for the gift of Himself in us!

  4. I thank God for this opportunity to know and learn more about thanksgiving and I thank you for sharing this too.

  5. Wonderful article on Thanksgiving. Encouraging and uplifting. Thank you.

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