This is the season for giving thanks. This year, I have turned to a few guides as I have attempted to think theologically about the importance of thanksgiving. Both have given me tremendous insight in how I should think about gratitude in response to God and his good gifts. Here are two very quick blessings I have received from these guides that I would like to share with you.
1. The God-centeredness of Thanksgiving
David Pao, while presenting a biblical theology of thanksgiving, reminds us that giving thanks is an act of worship and the appropriate response to God and his gifts.
“When giving thanks, God the creator of all is acknowledged to be the source of all goodness. Thanksgiving thus understood belongs properly to theological affirmation as well as ethical concern. It centres on who God is and what he has done and is doing for us; but is also concerned with ways in which we can align our lives to such creedal affirmations. It is a spontaneous response in the presence of the awesome God, but it can also be ‘practised.’ In the words of Clement of Alexandria, “if thou shalt love the Lord thy God, . . . let its first manifestation be towards God in thanksgiving and psalmody” (Pedagogus 2.4).
David W. Pao, Thanksgiving: An Investigation of a Pauline Theme (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 33.
2. The Danger of Lack of Thankfulness
Not only is giving thanks the appropriate response to God for all that He has done and is doing for us, but not giving thanks is at the very heart of sin. Tom Schreiner (one of my old pastors, seminary professors, and an important influence on my life in general) writes the following in his New Testament Theology:
“When we open to Paul’s letter to the Romans, which almost all would agree is his greatest, the God-entranced vision of the writing is apparent. Most conceive of sin in terms of failing to do what is mandated, and Paul certainly agrees. Fundamentally, however, sin exists when people fail to thank and glorify God (Rom. 1:21). The root sin consists in worshiping and serving the creature rather than the creator (Rom. 1:25). People sin when they fail to acknowledge God (Rom. 1:28). All the discrete acts of sin, therefore, are a consequence of failing to honor and give thanks to God (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).”
Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), 145.
Lord, grant me a heart of sincere thankfulness for You and Your many overwhelming gifts. Protect me from a heart that fails to thank You and give You glory in all things. Amen.