Thanksgiving as a Lifestyle of Worship
We learn to worship God by what is found in Scripture. The Word of God instructs us to be thankful to God, our Father, as an act of worship (Lev 7:13–15; 2 Chron 33:16; Col 1:3, 12). Thanksgiving, like worship, is a lifestyle for God’s people (Col 3:15), and it is hardly relegated to one special day of the calendar year (Gal 4:10).
Because it should be conducted properly (Lev 22:29), we should ask some pertinent questions: What is thanksgiving? Who gives thanks? Where do we give thanks? When do we offer our gratitude? Why do we give thanks? How do we give thanks to God? Before we answer these questions, we must remember God is the object of our worship, and to Him we give our thanks (1 Thess 1:2; Heb 13:15; Rev 4:9; 7:12). Let us taste and see some of what God has to say about thanksgiving.
First, what is thanksgiving? It is acknowledging God, by name (2 Sam 22:50; 1 Chron 16:8; 16:35; 1 Chron 29:13; Is 12:4; Ps 18:49; 30:4; 44:8), as the giver of every good and perfect gift (Jam 1:17). God gives everything to us by His grace, and our response to God’s grace is thanksgiving (1 Cor 1:4). Thanksgiving gives glory to God (2 Cor 4:15). When Anna recognized the baby Jesus as Messiah, she gave thanks to God and spoke of Him to others (Lk 2:38). Paul thanked God for the indescribable gift of Jesus Christ, our Savior (2 Cor 9:15). In fact, Paul gave thanks for all things (Eph 5:20). Thanksgiving is an act of worship to God, in the name of Jesus Christ, for His glory.
Second, where do we give thanks? Saints give thanks to God on the earth (Rev 11:17), in the great congregation (Ps 35:18; 42:4), among the nations (2 Sam 22:50; Is 12:4; Ps 18:49; 57:9), as it is in heaven (Is 51:3; Jer 33:11; Rev 4:9; 7:12). Thanksgiving was instructed for the Old Testament tabernacle and temple worship (Lev 7:13–15), and appointed priests were to minister thanksgiving to God (1 Chron 16:4, 7), in the house of the Lord (2 Chron 29:31; Jer 17:26; 33:11; Ps 42:4), via sacrifice, prayer, preaching, and singing. We should enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise (Ps 100:4a), and because we have permanent access to God through Jesus Christ, we worship the Father in Spirit and in truth wherever we are at any time (Jn 4).
Third, when do we offer gratitude? Israel offered thanksgiving at milestones in temple worship (Ezra 3:11). They gave thanks during times of prayer (Neh 11:17), even at midnight (Ps 119:62). The appointed ministers were to stand and give thanks every morning and evening (1 Chron 23:30), and on the day of battle (2 Chron 20:21), and during feast weeks (2 Chron 30:22).
Jesus demonstrated thanksgiving should be practiced at meal times. Feeding the five thousand, included a prayer of thanksgiving (Jn 6:11, 23), as did the Passover supper (1 Cor 11). Paul also prayed thanksgiving at meal times (Acts 27:34–36). Disputations over food are common in religion (1 Cor 10:30), so Paul encourages us in whatever we eat or do to give God glory with gratitude (1 Cor 10:31).
Paul did not cease to pray for others (Eph 1:16; Col 1:3; 1 Thess 2:13; Heb 13:15), always giving thanks for all things (Eph 5:20). We should give thanks when God puts the thought of someone on our minds (Phil 1:3; 2 Tim 1:3; Philemon 1:4), even to the extent of all men (1 Tim 2:1). When we ask for things from God, we should be sure to do it with thanksgiving (Phil 4:6). God’s people will give thanks to Him, forever (Ps 30:12; 44:8; 45:15; 52:9).
Fourth, why do we give thanks? We give thanks to God for He is good (1 Chron 16:34; Ezra 3:11; Jer 33:11), and righteous (Ps 7:17), and for His eternal love (1 Chron 16:41; Ezra 3:11; Jer 33:11), and His comfort (Is 12:1), and His wonders (Ps 107:21), and for the restoration (Jer 33:11), and for His honor (Ps 50:23). We give thanks to God for His election (2 Thess 2:13), and because He made us (Ps 139:14).
Giving thanks is proper speech and behavior for Christians (Eph 5:4), for it is God’s will for us (1 Thess 5:18), and His commandment (Is 12:4; Ps 122:4). We give thanks to God for giving us victory over sin, death, and the devil through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:57; 2 Cor 2:14). We give thanks because God hears our prayers (Jn 11:41; 2 Cor 1:11) and has become our salvation (Ps 118:21). We give thanks to God when others receive the Word of God (1 Thess 2:13). We give thanks for the spiritual gifts God has given to us (1 Cor 14:18), along with special grace (Dan 2:23).
Paul gave thanks to Christ for putting him in service (1 Tim 1:12). We give thanks to God when He inspires others to do good works (2 Cor 8:16) that bring us joy (1 Thess 3:9). Generosity produces thanksgiving (2 Cor 9:11–12) and so does the increase in brotherly love (2 Thess 1:3). We give thanks to God because it is good for us (Ps 92:1), and because He is our God (Ps 118:28).
Fifth, how do we give thanks to God? We give thanks in prayer (Col 1:3), with our voices (Jon 2:9; Ps 26:7), and with all our hearts (Ps 9:1). Our attitude in all prayers should be gratitude (Col 4:2). Paul prayed through Jesus Christ (Rom 7:25; Col 3:17; Heb 13:15), and gave thanks to God for the faith given to the Christians at Rome (Rom 1:8). Christ is our Mediator, who makes intercession for His people (1 Tim 2:5; Rom 8:34), and we are grateful for this access to God.
Paul expressed the diversity of worship in the Christian experience. Christians worship God through Christ in the Spirit and according to the Scriptures. Interpretation of the Bible produces a variety of nuances to the practice of worship. Paul said this was perfectly acceptable as long as the expressions were accompanied with thanks to God (Rom 14:16). This may be seen in Daniel’s posture in praying thanksgiving on his knees three times a day (Dan 6:10), and the psalmist who bowed down (Ps 138:2) to give thanks to God’s name and for His truth.
We should give thanks to God in song (Col 3:16; Ezra 3:11; Ps 28:7; 30:4; 69:30), as David did (2 Sam 22:50) with his Psalms of praise. The singing priests and Levites also gave thanks by singing songs of David (2 Chron 20:21; Neh 12:8, 24, 27). Singing hymns of thanksgiving became a tradition in Israel (Neh 12:46). Musical instruments were employed to give God thanks (Ps 33:2; 147:7).
Sixth, who gives thanks? Unbelievers do not give thanks to God (Rom 1:21), nor do those souls who are in hell (Ps 6:5; Is 38:18). All the kings of the earth should give thanks (Ps 138:4). His godly ones (Ps 30:4), the righteous (Ps 140:13), do give thanks to God while they are living, and pass the practice of thanksgiving on to others, “So we Your people and the sheep of Your pasture will give thanks to You forever; to all generations we will tell of Your praise (Ps 79:13).” All of God’s works give thanks to Him (Ps 145:10), and so should we, as His grateful creatures.
In summary, we have surveyed gratitude on the pages of Scriptures. Although our study is not exhaustive, it is comprehensive. We have learned that God’s people give Him thanks from their hearts and with their voices in prayer, preaching, and song. Thanksgiving is a lifestyle of grateful worship. It occurs whenever and wherever the Spirit inspires us to appreciate who God is and what He has done.
In conclusion, thanksgiving to God is forever, so while we are in the land of the living, let us give thanks to God in all of the ways we have seen above and for all the reasons we have mentioned from God’s Word. As we learned, it is good to give Him thanks and praise.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 16, 2021