“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Col 3:17
Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I want to reflect briefly on the recurring biblical command to be thankful. “Be thankful” (Col 3:15). “Give thanks to the Lord” (1 Ch 16:8). “Give thanks to God” (Rom 14:6). The act of “giving thanks” is good – but what is “thanks?” And how do we give something – “thanks” – to a God who needs nothing?
First, “thanks” is an English translation of the Greek word eucharisteo. Liturgical Christians will no doubt recognize the origin of the Eucharist (also known as “the Great Thanksgiving”). Thanksgiving - or Eucharistic living – begins with the awareness that all that we have, and all that we are, is sheer grace. We didn’t earn it. It’s not owed to us. We don’t deserve it. We didn’t even ask for it. But it’s been given to us. And whatever “it” is, it’s good. Because God is good. And everything that comes from God is good. Good trees must bear good fruit.
In other words, living a Eucharistic life is about gratitude. We should be grateful for family, friends, and food. We should be grateful for our country, our home, and our education. Above all else, we should be grateful that God sent Jesus to save us and that God has a good purpose for God’s good world. And although it can’t be forced, we should at least desire to be grateful for the pain we experience, for our mistakes, and for the loss’ that we endure. “All things work for the good of those who love God” (Rom 8:28).
Second, we don’t “give” God thanks because God needs it. Sure, God may be dishonored by our lack of gratitude – but I’m not sure we have the capacity to understand what that even means. And so God doesn’t need us to give thanks. We need to give thanks. Ultimately, “giving thanks” is about aligning ourselves with reality itself. Eucharistic living is about moving deeper and deeper into the reality that God’s Kingdom is already here – in our midst – and that it’s a kingdom of wasteful and extravagant and marvelous grace.
FOR THE WEEKEND: Have a great Thanksgiving (get it?)! And remember, “Giving thanks” is both a spiritual practice and a way of life. It’s about moving deeper and deeper into Reality itself. For the weekend, be intentionally thankful. And do so with the knowledge that you’re the one who stands to gain the most from intentional Eucharistic living. Our God needs nothing, and because of that, He’s given us everything. Be thankful.