Giving Thanks

This week of Thanksgiving has had me thinking about gratitude.

Photo by Hey Paul Studios

I’m not always good at giving thanks. I’m polite enough to say “thank you” at the appropriate times, but saying “thanks” and giving thanks are two different things. To me, saying “thanks” is an almost automatic reply—something my mom taught me to do from a very early age, as all good Southern ladies know. In simply saying “thanks,” I find that I focus more on the gift than the giver, because the gift is the object of thanks. By giving thanks, I am acknowledging the giver and his or her role in giving. 

All of this becomes a bit more tangible when I think of how this pertains to my relationship with God. When I give thanks to Him, I am acknowledging the Giver, as well as my relationship to Him. He gives gifts and I receive them. So why even think about this semantic distinction— saying “thanks” versus giving thanks? Because I believe it is important to give thanks.

 Giving Thanks Points to the Lord

Expressing gratitude, giving thanks, and crediting the Lord for providing reminds us that though we have been blessed with a great deal, we didn’t do anything to earn or deserve any of it. We couldn’t. That’s the point of grace, and one of the reasons that the Lord is so deserving of our thanks and praise. Not necessarily because of the specific things he provides, but that he provides at all. 

We are called to “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good”(Psalm 136:1), not to “Give thanks to the Lord when he gives us what we deem to be good.” We are to give thanks, share gratitude to reflect honor, and praise to the Lord. This business of giving thanks is not about us. It is not about the gifts; it is about the Lord.

Giving Thanks Sets Our Head and Heart in the Right Place

Looking around at our lives, counting gifts and naming them (as I learned to do in Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts) makes us aware of the outpouring of grace that is all around us everywhere and every day, if we just keep our eyes and heart open to seeing the gifts. 

We are called as believers to “give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thessalonians 5:18). If I’m able to see the beauty in the morning sunlight streaming in my kitchen window and enjoy an especially tasty cup of coffee in the ache of losing someone close to me, then I am beginning to understand the beauty of grace, and the goodness of God.

Giving Thanks Makes Us More Generous

Giving thanks is an act, a sacrifice. The phrase even includes the word “give,” which means letting go of something that we already have. When we recognize how much we’ve received, when we extend thanks and praise to the One who has given the gifts, then we are able to freely and joyfully give. We can give things, we can share time, we can extend grace to those around us who need it most

So this week let’s enjoy the holiday. Eat the turkey. Spend time with family and friends. Give thanks for all the gifts around us. Let’s thank the Lord for giving these gifts. Let’s allow our gratitude to encourage us to extend grace and generously give.