Day 1

What Does It Mean to Give Thanks?

from the Give Thanks reading plan


1 Chronicles 16:4-36, Psalm 107:8, Psalm 118:21, Isaiah 38:17-19, Hebrews 13:15

In recent years, a seemingly endless flood of books, articles, and social media memes have lauded the benefits of gratitude, encouraging us to become more grateful people. Truth be told, many of us have learned the hard way that the alternative—an entitled, complaining attitude—produces no good fruit, only misery. So when it comes to giving thanks, our experience confirms what scientific studies and Scripture agree upon: gratitude is good for us and good for the world.  

And yet, do we really understand what it means to give thanks from a biblical perspective? Consider 1 Chronicles 16:8:

“Give thanks to the LORD; call on his name; proclaim his deeds among the peoples.”

Taking each phrase in turn, we begin to see the key elements of giving thanks, as portrayed in the Scriptures.

First, thanksgiving is to the Lord. It is first and foremost godward. It is vertical before it is horizontal. Our gratitude for God and to God lies beneath our gratitude to other people or for other things. Gratitude, at its root, is worship, and worship is what we were created for. When we worship, we ascribe worth to an infinitely worthy God, and when we fail to worship, we miss the point of our existence. Ingratitude is a clear indicator that we have lost touch with reality. Perhaps nowhere in Scripture is this more clearly stated than in Romans 1:21:

“For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened.”

Second, giving thanks shows that we understand God is the source of every good gift we enjoy. To depend on God, to “call on his name,” is glorifying to Him and humbling to us. He is the Creator; we are His creatures. He is the Provider; we are the recipients of His provision. He is the Savior; we are people who need saving. In light of these realities, giving thanks to God is both a gauge of our sanity and a reliable path to a greater measure of it. And who doesn’t want and need that?

Third, giving thanks to God is not just a private affair, but is meant to be done before others and with others. Just as sharing our faith is meant to benefit others and glorify God, so giving thanks to God is meant to benefit others and glorify God. It benefits others by pointing them to the source of all joy and fulfillment, as we recount all the Lord has done. When we give thanks and praise to God, we are recommending Him to a watching world. We are saying God is worthy of our full acceptance and trust.

If I was a preacher, fond of alliteration, I could sum what it means to give thanks based on this verse as: a practice, a posture, and a proclamation. It flows out of who He is and who we are; it is heartfelt truth expressed for His benefit, for our benefit, and for the benefit of others. Keeping these three aspects of giving thanks in mind can help us grow in this crucial, beautiful grace.

Written by Matt Erickson

Post Comments (4)

4 thoughts on "What Does It Mean to Give Thanks?"

  1. Troy says:

    This is what my heart needed today… “giving thanks shows that we understand God is the source of every good gift we enjoy. To depend on God, to ‘call on his name,’ is glorifying to Him and humbling to us.”
    I “know” that God is the source of everything good. Yet in my tendency toward self-sufficiency, I can easily forget that and see good things as the product of my actions or simply the natural flow of life.
    Taking time to give thanks, to recognize God’s role and hand in even the smallest things in life, changes my heart and pulls me closer to the Father.
    It is a cycle that glorifies God, rightly humbles me, and grows my love for the Father. As my love grows, so does my worship and thanksgiving.

  2. Shaun Lynch says:

    Lord I’ve never really thought about thanksgiving FOR you and TO you. What a thought! Being grateful for you and who you are not just to you for what you’ve done. Lord, forgive me for any time I’ve made thanksgiving about me instead of about you and Lord I do pray for a more grateful, heart of thanksgiving!

  3. Graham says:

    A practice, a posture, a proclamation.

    Giving thanks shows we understand God is the source of every good gift we enjoy.

    We glorify God but depending on Him.

    Giving thanks to God is both a gauge of our sanity and a reliable path to a greater measure of it.

    Romans 1:21
    For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened.

  4. Jacob Moon says:

    I love that thankfulness has been seen in so much scripture, it is so easy to get lost in our days and give credit to only ourselves for our work at a job and the promotion that followed, for dodging a car accident and our quick thinking and reflexes, even things as simple as a sunny day. Everything we have is because of him and we act just as conduit of his goodness. With the goodness given to us, it is our responsibility to share that with others, realize that good things come from him, but also take the time to express that thankfulness back. I love the idea that gratitude is “vertical before horizontal” taking time throughout the day to thank him for our time and treasure, talents, and plans is so important. It doesn’t need to be anything more that a silent and mindful thank you, a small whisper, or a prayer. He hears it all and will continue to grow us in grace and thankfulness as long as we continue to be a light to others and continue to be thankful to him for all he has done. I have seen the power of saying thank you and writing down blessings and realizing just how much I have to be thankful for, it is something that we should all do. It just helps bring your heart back to the right space and thoughts.

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