Published November 22, 2011

Paul's Epistle...
"Thanks – or No Thanks"

Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday. The very name of the holiday tells us what we should do — give thanks!

Thanksgiving – at least in the American context – dates back to the Pilgrims and their famous feast of Thanksgiving. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as "a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens..."

And yet for far too many, the real idea of Thanksgiving is foreign – or forgotten. It, quite simply, is a day designed to remind us to thank God – something we should do every day anyway. In fact, it's something God wants us – even commands us – to do.

Remember the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17? They met Jesus on a dusty country road and asked to be healed. Jesus told them to go, show themselves to the priests. As they went, they were healed (v. 14). But, although all ten received the healing, only one returned to thank Christ.

The Lord said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner [a Samaritan]?" And He said, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well." The KJV says the man's faith "hath made you whole." Several other translations say, "you faith has saved you."

All ten of the lepers received physical healing. But only this one, the text implies, received spiritual healing as well. The physical healing resulted from obedience. But the spiritual healing resulted from the man's thankfulness.

Why do we need to be thankful – and express our thanks – to God? The most direct answer is that God wants us to do exactly that. Paul tells us, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5:18). Notice – it's not in some things, not just when you think of it, not just when you feel like it, not when there's nothing better to do, not just when you get around to it – but always! Unthankfulness – and failing to be thankful – is contrary to the will of God.

Thankfulness gives glory to God. In Luke 17:18, in the story mentioned above, Jesus equates giving God "thanks" with "giving glory" to God! 2nd Cor. 4:15 tells us that God's grace to Christians "may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God."

Giving thanks is also an expression of faith. The only thing we know that the returning leper said was – in so many words – "thank you!" Jesus, in verse 19, interpreted that as an expression of faith.

Thankfulness brings us closer to God, especially in prayer – which is how we thank God. Philippians 4:6 says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Paul goes on to tell the benefits of thanksgiving: "...and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ." You can accept and enjoy the blessings God gives you every day, but only by expressing thanks to God will you come closer to Him and have true peace.

Thankfulness acknowledges our dependence on God. The Doxology says, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow..." All of our blessings come from God. And consider this: God may have additional blessings He'd like to give you – which would be activated by giving him thanks for what you already have.

Those are some of the benefits of thankfulness. But what are the perils of unthankfulness?

2nd Timothy 3:2 talks abut the end times – and unthankfulness is listed as one of the traits that will be most evident in the last days. Unthankfulness leads to pride, and pride is one of the traits Paul listed.

So many people simply sideline God – if they think of Him at all. They feel they worked hard to accomplish what they have – and don't see how God had any role in it. This is nothing new. In Deut. 8, the Israelites were no longer thanking God for delivering them from Egypt and for feeding and protecting them for forty years. They each thought, "my power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth..." (v. 17). But God, through Moses, said, "You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth" (v. 18). To forget that is pride – the sin that got Satan cast out of heaven, the sin that brought sin in to the world in the Garden of Eden, the sin that's still causing people to turn from God.

An essay I found recently called unthankfulness "the gateway drug to sin." Why? Because it is the first of many steps leading to the effective denial of God. Paul talks about such people in Romans 1:21-22: "...they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools." Know anyone like that?

For such reasons, unthankfulness can be considered idolatry. Unthankful people seek out "other gods" to provide what they want – things they think the "real God" hasn't provided – such as worldly pleasures.

Thankfulness gives glory to God; unthankfulness gives glory to man.

A Gallup poll found that, as American families sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, only one in ten will pause to thank God for their food. Only one in ten! Does that sound familiar? Nothing's changed in the two millennia since only one in ten lepers paused to give the Lord thanks.

We need to adopt an attitude of thanksgiving in all things, an all-encompassing attitude that leads from thanks-giving to thanks-living. If we do this, who knows how many more blessings the Lord will shower down on us?

Thank God!

- Paul

Comments on this? paul@thegospelgreats.com

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