Happy Thanksgiving! My family has been flattened by the flu so I wasn’t able to write a new post this week. This is a repost from 2012.
Although Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, it creates a wonderful opportunity to talk to our kids about the meaning of gratitude from a biblical perspective. While our secular holiday tends to focus on celebrating lists of things we’re thankful for, the biblical perspective on gratitude is much richer in meaning.
Here are four “thanksgiving” perspectives all Christians should have. This week is a great time to consider any one of these as a meaningful conversation starter!
1. Christian gratitude is directed to God exclusively.
In a secular sense, the phrase “I’m so grateful that…” is simply the expression of a positive feeling without an acknowledgment of where the blessing originates.
For a Christian, God should always be acknowledged as the source of all we have.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17)
Conversation starter: Ask your kids to try to come up with something that DOESN’T come from God. They usually come up with physical things like tables, couches, TVs, etc. Use it as an opportunity to brainstorm all the ways God still provided the earthly material and human knowledge needed to create these things.
2. Christian gratitude is independent of circumstances.
It’s really easy and quite natural to be grateful when everything is going great. But a grateful response to positive circumstances is only half of the story. Christians are expected to respond with gratitude to everything that happens.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Conversation starter: Ask your kids why we should be able to thank God during difficult times. A couple of key talking points include: 1) Our salvation remains assured regardless of earthly circumstances and 2) we know that God will ultimately work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).
3. Christian gratitude is a worldview, not a matter of etiquette.
Saying “thank you” has become such a routine reaction in our culture that it’s often an expression of etiquette rather than genuine gratitude. Unfortunately, this can extend to our prayer lives if our gratitude amounts to little more than a polite prayer list of acknowledgments for things going well.
Christian gratitude is a worldview, not spiritual etiquette.
“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.” (Colossians 3:17)
Conversation Starter: Ask your kids how today would have been different if they lived gratefully at all times (e.g., perhaps they would have been less mad at a friend if they were more grateful for that friendship). How is living gratefully different than simply listing things we’re thankful for in prayer?
4. Christian gratitude, at its heart, is a response to God’s grace.
In a Thanksgiving sermon from several years ago, Pastor John Piper spoke of the relationship between grace and gratitude in 2 Corinthians 4:15. The Apostle Paul wrote:
“It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
Piper pointed out that you don’t feel much gratitude when you receive a paycheck because you gave your work in exchange. Gratitude generally rises in proportion to how undeserved a gift is. This verse explicitly connects the knowledge of grace – our undeserved gift from God – with the natural outcome of gratitude.
As Piper says beautifully, “Gratitude flourishes in the sphere of grace.”
Indeed. This Thanksgiving, pray that God would overwhelm you with a profound sense of His grace. Your gratitude will flourish in response.
What other “thanksgiving” perspectives do you think Christians should have?