Thanksgiving: Not Just a Day, But a Way of Life
And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day set apart by the national government so that Americans might express their thanks. The roots of this holiday grow deep into American soil, touching the very beginnings of the country. The value of setting apart a day for giving thanks has been affirmed by many presidents, beginning with George Washington. (If you're interested in some of the history of Thanksgiving, you may want to check out this series on my website: Thoughts About Thanksgiving.)
I think it's a fine thing that the United States (among other countries) sets apart a specific day for gratitude, even if this day is often more devoted to football and feasting than to actually giving thanks to God. But sometimes I think we Americans do ourselves a disservice by identifying one day a year for gratitude. The danger, as I see it, is that we might not live thankfully all year round.
Scripture calls us to a life of gratitude, not just a day. Colossians 3:17, for example, urges: "And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father." Everything we do and say should have two basic characteristics. First, it should be done "as a representative of the Lord Jesus." The original Greek reads more literally, "in the name of the Lord Jesus." This does mean "as his representative," but it also suggests that we are to seek his agenda and to be committed to his purposes.
Second, we are to do and say everything "giving thanks" to God the Father through Jesus. This doesn't mean that we are to stop every action and every conversation in order to offer a literal prayer of thanks to God. Rather, we are to act and speak thankfully. We are to live each moment with an awareness of God's grace at work in our lives and in the world. Sometimes we will express our gratitude to God or to others. But even when we're silent, we are to receive all of life and do all that we do with an awareness that we are living by grace.
Living thankfully gives God the credit he deserves, and that's sufficient reason to do it. But living thankfully also transforms us. It gives us a deeper appreciation of life. It steers us away from focusing too much on our struggles. It enables us to see God's presence even in hard times. It motivates us to live each moment of each day for God and his glory. Pervasive thanksgiving enables us, therefore, to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."
So, be thankful today, for sure. But be thankful tomorrow as well. And the next day. And the next. . . .
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What helps you to live thankfully each day? What gets in the way of your gratitude? What might you do differently to help you act and speak with thankfulness?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, as I pay attention to the encouragement to do everything in your name, giving thanks to you, I realize how easily I fall short of this goal. I can so easily take your gifts for granted. Or I can focus on what is wrong, filling my heart with worry rather than thanksgiving. Forgive me, Lord, for my ungrateful heart and my thankless living.
Help me, I pray, to be thankful to you in all that I do and say. May thanksgiving become a true habit of mind, heart, and action. May I learn to acknowledge you with expressed thanks, both to you and in the presence of others. May I see your gifts and delight in them.
Thank you, gracious God, for the opportunity to live thankfully. Thank you for your Word that instructs and challenges me to do it. Thank you for your grace and for your Spirit who help me to live with gratitude each day.
All praise and thanks be to you, gracious, loving, giving God. Amen.