Beware a Thanksgiving Without Any Thanks Given

Giving Thanks Is God’s Will

A verse that has been recently on my mind a lot is 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It reads like this: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I’m not going to spend much time dissecting this passage. It’s fairly straightforward to me. If giving thanks in all circumstances is God’s will for us, then to not be giving thanks has serious implications for where we’re at spiritually in any given moment.

This seems an apt thing to talk about around Thanksgiving. Hopefully you have seen the need to be thinking about thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. It certainly extends past this singular day, but perhaps this day is a chance to start some good spiritual disciplines for us to think about.

What Should We Give Thanks For?

This is one of the greatest areas I think we as Christians can improve on this holiday. What is most appropriate to give thanks for? I’m guessing this is going to be one of those things most Christians all agree on verbally, but very few practice well. Let’s examine some of our options for thanksgiving.

Should we give thanks for food and physical comforts? This seems good. After all, 1 Timothy 6:8 says, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

This verse is really talking about the bare minimum in life. This is talking about ragged, hand-me-down clothing that gets by and meals that probably don’t really fill you up, but are enough to satisfy. That’s enough. 

So if you have a plethora of big, comfy sweaters to put on (hopefully they are ones that stretch well as you eat!) and you have a feast to partake in, you should give thanks for that. It’s much more than you need, and God has been embarrassingly good to you to give you these things.

If you do anything like shopping in Thanksgiving-related sales or watch football games, again you should probably thank God for the lavish TVs most of us can watch on or the cars that transport us so easily as we zip from store to store.

But I’m still not sure we’ve gotten to the heart of thanksgiving as the Bible most deeply expresses. So, what’s next?

Should we give thanks for the people around us? I think there’s a strong case here! Paul starts off many of his letters with something similar to Ephesians 1:3; 8: “I thank my God every time I remember you… God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” 

Paul certainly seems to cherish people. Now, we could get into dissecting this passage and realize that Paul almost always give thanks for churches of God and the people who are parts of those churches, but that’s splitting hairs a bit for this post.

Suffice to say, I think we can recognize all people as image bearers of God (Genesis 1:27) and they are to be rejoiced in as handiworks of God. Yes, that means even the annoying aunt, uncle, sibling, or cousin you’re thinking about. You’re asking, “Do I really have to give thanks for them?” “Yes,” is the unequivocal answer. You should rejoice that God has given you people in your life to enjoy the day(s) with.

But again, something seems to be missing. If we do the things above, even a non-believer could participate in those – and heartily as well! So what’s to distinguish a Christian giving thanks from that of those who do not acknowledge God?

As always, our eyes are drawn back to Jesus Christ and my thoughts go to this passage from Romans 7:24-8:2:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God– through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free.” 

This is the heart of Christian thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. We have been rescued. It’s great if you have food, clothes, football, shopping, etc. God created you to enjoy these things.

But I’ve seen too many holidays go by where we acknowledge the gifts given us without ever acknowledging the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17). So this Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for the gifts through the lens of Christ. For apart from Him, we are still wretched, pointless creatures who only trudge through this life until we return to the dust we came from. But with Christ, we have purpose and life everlasting! Praise be to God!

Proclaim the Gospel Through Thanks

Here’s the challenge to all you fellow brothers and sisters who might read this. Make this thanks public. Follow in the footsteps of Jesus who came to preach and proclaim the truth and goodness of the Father (Mark 1:38). He did after all commission us to make disciples everywhere we go (Matthew 28:19).

So whoever you might find yourself around this Thanksgiving, preach the Gospel to them through your thanks. Make people stop and practice giving thanks. This may be awkward, but I ensure you the Holy Spirit will aid you and you will feel bolstered for having done it.

I don’t care if you’re around parents who know the Gospel already. Preach the Gospel to them again. Remind them of what they have. Remind yourself of what you have (Philemon 6)! Have siblings who you’re not sure if they know the Gospel? Definitely preach the Gospel. Extended family who acknowledge Christ with their lips, but have hearts who are far away from Christ (Isaiah 29:13)? Certainly preach the Gospel to them. Give thanks to God for what He has accomplished on your behalf.

Let’s be bold this season (2 Timothy 1:7). If your family is anything like mine, then your Thanksgiving can be a superficial, shallow event. And I believe many in my family are saved! So if we’re having a superficial day, then I can only imagine what happens in a lot of other homes.

Let’s change that. Let’s give thanks for the thing that should be thanked most of all. Let’s thank Jesus Christ for shedding His atoning blood on the cross so that you and I might be able to face death with hope in a greater inheritance in Christ. I pray your conversations are seasoned with salt and that you have wisdom in to how to make these conversations happen (Colossians 4:6).

Don’t Have a Godless Thanksgiving 

To be clear, you can’t have a Thanksgiving where Jesus isn’t present. He’ll certainly witness what you do this year. But you can have a Thanksgiving where Jesus is not honored. And we should consider that notion with fear and trembling, because if giving thanks is God’s will for our life and we’ve not given thanks for the one thing that matters above all else than I certainly think we have some serious thinking to do about how thankful we really are for what He’s done for us.

Let’s be salt and light to a lost and dying world this year. Let’s be salt and light to lost and dying families this year. Let’s be salt and light to literal brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, moms and dads, who may be spiritual brothers and sisters who are struggling and need to be spurred on towards love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). We can do this. I know we can because we have the Holy Spirit, the powerful executor of God’s will. Certainly He is capable of equipping us with what we need to face any situation (Luke 12:12)!

Peace and grace to you, brothers and sisters! I look forward to hearing what the Lord might do through His followers if we would simply be faithful enough to give thanks this year!

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