Say ‘Thank You!’
As a bratty little boy I had to be constantly reminded to say ‘Thank you’ for things. I was unthankful and presumptuous. My elders were working for my good when they laboured to teach me my manners, and I am very thankful for it.
Sadly, my hardness of heart through my youth set some persistent patterns in my life and behaviour. My unwillingness to be thankful as a matter of courtesy continued into adulthood. It’s really only over the past few years that I’ve begun to realize just how connected thanklessness / thankfulness is to my heart’s whole disposition.
Recently, I thought it would be good for me to go back and do a little study on thankfulness in the New Testament. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Not only was the study huge, it was hugely convicting.
I was expecting the apostle Paul to command us to be thankful. I wasn’t expecting the New Testament to model and expect so much about thankfulness. And I wasn’t expecting to see just how clearly thankfulness is so much more than manners; it is bound up with godliness and worship in every area of our lives.
I want to provide you with my compilation of New Testament texts and teaching on thankfulness. I think the best way to use it is to download the PDF, print it, go through the texts one-by-one and make notes on them.
That being said, I know that many of you (a) won’t do that, or, (b) won’t do that without convincing, so I’m going to offer a few highlights here.
Jesus Himself Modelled Thankfulness
And note the things he thanks his Father for. These are things I would complain and be bitter about, but he gives thanks.
ESV Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;
ESV Luke 22:17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. … 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Those Who Please God Come to Christ with Thanks
ESV Luke 2:38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
ESV Luke 17:17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
The Apostles First Model Thanksgiving
Note: They thank God for bread (like Jesus prayed before his meals, too), but they also thank God for every instance of grace in the church.
ESV Acts 27:35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.
ESV Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
ESV Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
ESV 1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,
ESV Ephesians 1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
ESV Philippians 1:3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,
ESV Colossians 1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,
ESV 1 Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,
ESV 2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
Then Thanksgiving is Commanded
Note: For everything and in every circumstance.
ESV Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
ESV Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
ESV Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
The Lack of Thanksgiving Is Ungodliness Leading to More Ungodliness
ESV Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Because they don’t honour him or give thanks to him, he gives them up more and more to their sin. Thanklessness is a path to depravity.
Those Who See Him Most Clearly Give Him Most Thanks
ESV Revelation 4:9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever.
So God, Help Me to Be Thankful
Thankfulness is about so much more than just manners. It’s about the way we perceive our reality under the realm of God’s providence. Complaints against our circumstances are complaints against our King. It’s about heart-orientation, not courtesy.
For now, though we don’t see clearly how all these things are ‘working for our good’ (Rom 8.28), we are called to walk by faith. Then, when we finally see him clearly, for eternity, we’ll join the chorus of thanksgiving.
Why not begin now? Is thankfulness the habit of your life? Are there things in your life that you’re not giving thanks for?
PS — Don’t take my word for it. There’s more in God’s word for you to know about this. Check out the PDF and keep studying from there!