Theology of Gratitude

As those of us who are fortunate enough to reside in the United States of America prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we find a seasonal opportunity foisted upon us to reflect upon the blessings we have in our lives. Those things for which we give thanks. Social media posts abound with hashtags such as #30DaysofThanks, #AttitudeofGratitude, #Thanksgiving #Blessed, #Grateful, etc.

It is touching to see people express their thanksgiving. No matter what your perspective, I think we can all agree that gratitude is a beautiful thing. For Christians, however, it not only takes on a much more significant role in our lives, for the work God has done for us through Christ, but we also find that instructions for thanksgiving are stated often in Scripture.

Gratitude needn’t, or shouldn’t, be limited to one day or month per year. Instead, God lays out the blueprints for a life that oozes gratitude every day. Below I’ll point out some key verses about thanksgiving that indicate for us a pattern that I believe God intends for our daily lives. I’ll offer some thoughts as well, but let primarily God’s word speak for itself.

Giving thanks all the time

To underscore the importance of consistency in thankfulness:

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This verse can be a tough one for Christians, myself included. “In everything give thanks???” one might question. A key distinction I picked up in this verse is that it instructs us not to give thanks for everything but in everything. In all circumstances, not for all.

In other words, forcing an insincere “thanks” for that flat tire is not the point. The takeaway, as I see it, is that we cultivate attitudes that filter everything through the gratitude of having a right relationship with God. It makes being thankful regardless of what happens to us possible. Which leads me to my next point.

Giving thanks even when times are rough

God never promises us a comfortable life as Christians. Quite the opposite, in fact. He promises that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Not really warm fuzzies, is it?

Job, whom God had blessed with great wealth and a wonderful family, had everything he held dear to him taken away, including his health, in an account that is a rare insight into the workings of the devil. Nevertheless, when he was at his lowest, he still had a right attitude:

“He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.'” – Job 1:21

Will we as Christians look to God and give him thanks, even when life hands us terrible things?

Giving thanks for what God has done

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and your faithfulness by night.”
– Psalm 92:1-2

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15

“Every good thing given, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” – James 1:17

There is not enough time (nor human knowledge) to write, even as a summary, all of the good things God has done. For one very substantial thing, He has provided a way for us as sinful humans to be right with Him, through Jesus Christ (a.k.a. the Gospel).

Throughout the New Testament, we see a theme of giving thanks to God for His saving work. It is easy to see how that attitude is to permeate our lives.

Giving thanks for what God is doing in the lives of others

Having gratitude for what God has done for us is the first step on the road to maturity in thanksgiving. Next, we see that it is modeled for us to be thankful for the magnificent work God does for others.

“But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,” – Romans 6:17

“We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;” – Colossians 1:3-4

Giving thanks to God for who He is

This is a critical, yet joyful lesson to learn. God deserves our thanks simply on His own merits and glory.

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 100:4-5

“Therefore, since we have a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12:28-29

No exclusion clause

Even the godless will be held accountable for their attitude toward God. Romans chapter one goes into damning detail about those who suppress the truth they know about God in unrighteousness. Keeping within the theme of this post:

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” – Romans 1:21

Conclusion

Not to end on a negative note, as the last heading might appear, I want to sum up in a way appropriate for the topic. As Christians, no matter what our life circumstances, family, income level, wardrobe, job, or education level, we have been given an eternal, priceless gift in the redemption of souls through Jesus Christ. Our hope is secure. We have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Christ has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth, and He is with us every step of the way (Matthew 28:20) until we see Him face to face in eternity.

With these truths in our minds and our hearts, becoming thankful 365 days a year suddenly becomes more natural.

Regardless of your personal belief system, I’m curious what you are most thankful for. I welcome your comments and questions. As always, thank you so much for reading!

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About Summer Sorensen

My aim: to live out Jesus' greatest commands (Matthew 22:36-40) & have the most fun while doing it.
This entry was posted in Advice, Holidays, Opinion, priorities, Thanksgiving, Theology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Theology of Gratitude

  1. I so enjoyed reading your post tonight, Summer! I KNOW I am the recipient of countless blessings that God bestows on me every day! Still, the very human tendency to be negatively “self-absorbed” sometimes causes me to lose sight of some of those blessings. When I become aware of this, I am usually regretful that I allowed myself to think in negative ways. After all, I’ve just missed an opportunity to experience joy!

    I love the encouragement you gave us with these words: “We have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Christ has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth, and He is with us every step of the way (Matthew 28:20) until we see Him face to face in eternity.”

    Such wonderful reassurances from God’s Word!

  2. Steph says:

    Thanks for the great reminder! As I sit here not feeling well and far from “home”, I needed to be reminded to have an attitude of gratitude. He has given so much, and expects so little in return. Thanks for the timely message.

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