11-16-12 Bible Answers: Addressing gratitude, when giving thanks

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By Pastor Chuck McCullough

“When you ‘give thanks,’ to whom are you addressing your gratitude?”—Dan 


This question arose recently in a conversation about the acculturated nature of Thanksgiving and the seemingly vague, indefinite language in public discourse that surrounds the holiday.

People are encouraged to “give thanks” by politicians and media talking heads but the object of the thanks is not typically spelled out. Many expressions of “thanks” apparently just float out into space.

Everyone has a reason to say, “thank you.” We are all the recipients of the generous actions of others, both near and far.

Most of us have the basics we need for survival—and much more. 

So, to whom ought we “give thanks”? Interestingly, the Bible does not really address saying “Thank you” to other people. 

Of course, the importance of doing so is self-evident. “thank you” is fundamental to good manners and decency and the fostering of healthy human relations.

Expressing genuine gratitude affirms our interconnectedness and the value we place on others.

It’s just that the Bible wants us to understand who is the ultimate source of every good thing (James 1:17). 

As far as the biblical writers were concerned, God is in and behind everything: the life we possess, the air we breathe, and the sun that warms the Earth. 

Most of the Psalms are expressions of gratitude for the “wonders” God has performed (cf. Ps. 105; 136).

These gifts include not only life itself but also the ability to think and choose, the ability to work and earn a living, a place to live, food, and clothing (I Tim. 4:4).

Our thanksgiving, then, is not vague and indefinite. It does not simply float out into space—it is directed to God who loves all people, regardless of their ability, background, and station in life. 

 It is directed to God who in His great mercy provides for our needs (Mt. 6:25-34; 7:7-11) and brings profound hope for the future into our lives (Jn. 3:16-17; Heb. 12:28; I Pet. 1:3-9).