Giving thanks is really important. I’m talking coffee when you’re not a morning person, calling your mom when you’re in college, and remembering your anniversary when you’re married kind of important. To give you just a small sampling:
We are told to give thanks to the Lord for his goodness (Psalm 106),
To give thanks always, in all circumstances, and for all things (Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
To abound in thanksgiving (Colossians 2:7).
Giving thanks is associated with unity of the body and unexplainable peace (Cololossians 3:15, Philippians 4:6-7),
and it is placed in opposition to unholy talk (Ephesians 5:4).
We even see what was not enough become enough when Jesus gives thanks for it (Mark 6:41).
So what is so incredible about thanksgiving?
First and foremost, giving thanks glorifies God. “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” (Psalm 50:23). Within the old covenant were descriptions of thank offerings, a type of peace offering, to which the Psalmist is referring (Lev. 7:11-15). These sacrifices were voluntary and done in recognition of the favor of God on the sacrificer’s life. The individual would offer meat and loaves and then partake in a portion of the sacrifice in a celebratory meal with their family, of which God would be considered host. In other words, the Israelites would literally give up something to express their thanksgiving to God.
What do we give up when we give thanks, and how does this glorify God?
By giving thanks, we give up pride, self-sufficiency, and credit. Let me elaborate. Say you are doing really well at your job. You’re earning a steady income and are on your way to a promotion. You could take credit for this, say that your hard work or natural talent has allowed you to be financially stable and well-respected. Or you could take this circumstance, offer it to God, and thank him for allowing you to be successful, skilled, and financially stable.
To put it simply, when we thank God for a circumstance, we are saying “God, your role in this is much bigger than my role in this.” This is the very definition of glorifying, which can also be expressed as “magnifying” or “making bigger.” By giving thanks, we give God credit, and so magnify (glorify) him in our lives.
Similarly, when we give thanks for a person in our lives, we are acknowledging the role of community—and God’s sovereignty in who he brings into our lives—further breaking with self-sufficiency (and strengthening community in the process).
Thanklessness says “this is my doing.” Thankfulness says “this is your doing.”
In light of all this, I would argue that the mindset we are encouraged to take on in Romans 12:1 is a lifestyle of thanksgiving:
“Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
Rephrased in context, it might sound like this: “therefore, in grateful response to all God has done and has called you to, give up your pride and your self-sufficiency; recognize and welcome his role in your life and his leading—this is how you bring him glory.”
This is an attitude of thanksgiving: a daily sacrifice walked out in constant recognition of and response to Christ’s mercy and favor in our lives. It is an attitude of humility that in all things, says “God, your role in this is much bigger than mine.” Taking a cue from the Levitical law, this living sacrificing, a modern thank offering, is done voluntarily, in response to God’s favor, and is followed by celebratory fellowship with God as host as we participate in its fruits.
As W.E. Vine describes it, “thanksgiving is the expression of joy Godward.” Therefore, for the glory of a God most-deserving, in response to what he is doing in your life, joyfully humble yourself and give him credit, this is your sacrifice of thanksgiving.
About the Author: Ana is a Michigan native who likes putting honey in her coffee, singing in the car, and dancing when walking would do. She currently works in the Ann Arbor area as a dance teacher and a receptionist and marketing consultant at Arbor Woman Pregnancy Center. Her heart is for every person to know the deep love, identity, and mercy that can be found in the Father.