I really like Thanksgiving, because there is not a lot of pressure to go out and buy things. You have to get food, of course. But apart from that, Thanksgiving is not about shopping. It is more about getting together with family and friends and doing what most people love to do, which is eat.
A traditional Thanksgiving meal at our home includes turkey, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes made fresh by my wife, gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes with a few melted marshmallows, and fresh cranberry sauce. Then we finish it off with pumpkin pie.
Of course, after the meal, I vow that I will not be eating anything for days. But I am amazed that by about 6 p.m. that night, I am hungry again. Then it is time for a turkey sandwich, and I enjoy that as much as the main event.
We can enjoy the food. We can enjoy our family. We can enjoy our fellowship. But the real purpose of Thanksgiving is to give thanks. It is a day to focus on giving thanks.
Of course, that is easier said than done. Sometimes it is easy to give thanks. It is easy when things are going reasonably well, the bills are paid, we have a roof over our head and our health is good. But when times are hard, we don’t want to give thanks at all.
But here is what the Bible says: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1 NIV).
Notice this verse does not say to give thanks to the Lord when you feel good. Rather, it says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”
If God ceases to be good, then I suppose we can cease to give thanks. But since that will never happen, Scripture commands us to give thanks always.
Think about Job. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. In one day, he lost his seven sons and three daughters. It is really unimaginable. Yet we read that after all the calamity that befell him, he worshipped the Lord and said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
How could Job do that? He was giving thanks to the Lord not just when things were going good, but because the Lord is good.
Someone might say, “Well, what if my heart is not in it? Should I still give thanks?” Yes, you should. I don’t know how easy it was for Job to offer praise that day. I am sure it was a sacrifice. And many times when we offer our worship to God, it is just that: a sacrifice. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”
The Bible not only commands us to give thanks regardless of circumstances, but it also tells us to verbally give thanks to God.
It would be like a husband never telling his wife that he loves her. She needs to hear it from him. And of course, a husband needs to hear “I love you” from his wife, too.
God knows all things. He knows whether we love him. However, he still asks for us to give him verbal praise. Far too often, we fail to give God what is due him. As Psalm 29:2 reminds us, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness” (emphasis added).
It is rude not to say thank you. Children sometimes forget this. They take for granted everything their parents do for them. When you tell a child, “Remember to say thank you,” you are simply teaching him or her manners. Yet it seems that in our culture today, common courtesy is often lacking. When I hold a door open for someone, I don’t expect a lot. I don’t want them to hug me. (Not at all, really.) I don’t want a long, drawn-out conversation. Just a simple “thank you” would be nice. But sometimes we come up lacking in manners.
The Bible tells us that when people failed to glorify God or to give him thanks, their foolish hearts became dark (see Romans 1:20–22). That can happen to us as well. We are so quick to cry out to God in our hour of need, but are we as quick to call out to him and offer thanks after he responds to our requests?
We find a classic example of this in a New Testament account of 10 men with leprosy who came to Jesus and begged him to have mercy on them and heal them. So Jesus did. He told them to go and show themselves to the priest, and they would be healed. Then we read, “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. …” (Luke 17:15–16). Interestingly, the term used for “loud voice” originates from the same word as “megaphone.”
Ten were healed, but only one came back, and he was as loud with his praise as he was with his request. This serves as a reminder that we should do the same.