What Giving Thanks Says About Us - Radical

What Giving Thanks Says About Us

“Say thank you,” we constantly remind our children. Whether it’s a present, a meal, or simply a kind word, we want our kids to recognize when something has been given to them. Walking through life as if everything is owed to you is off-putting.

When we turn to Scripture, however, the failure to give thanks is more than just bad manners. It’s rebellion. In fact, ingratitude is a sign that you don’t belong to God. If that sounds like an overstatement, consider how Paul describes the ungodly in Romans 1:21:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (emphasis added)

Unbelievers don’t give thanks to God. Although God’s “eternal power and divine nature” are evident to them from creation (Romans 1:19–20), they fail to glorify him and give him thanks. God gives them life and sustains them at every moment, yet they would rather bow down to lifeless idols than give thanks to their Creator. God responds by unleashing his wrath (Romans 1:18), for idolatry and ingratitude are an affront to him. Not giving thanks is more than a character flaw.

Giving Thanks Is a Sign

In light of the gravity of not giving thanks, it’s no surprise that Scripture continually calls God’s people to be thankful.The psalmist tells us to “Enter his [God’s] gates with thanksgiving” (Psalm 100:4a). Isaiah tells us that God’s salvation should produce in us joy, gladness, and thanksgiving (Isaiah 51:3). When Paul prays for the believers in Colossae, he prays that they would give thanks to the God who has delivered them from darkness and transferred them into his kingdom (Colossians 1:12–13).  Then, Paul tells the believers in Philippi not to be anxious. He urges them to do so by praying with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). The point is clear. The Christian life should be filled with thanksgiving.

Of course, even unbelievers feel a sense of gratitude when something has been given to them. However, the kind of gratefulness that marks a Christian should be different. We know the God who has freely given us all things and we know that we don’t deserve his gifts, particularly his salvation. Our thankfulness is the fruit of God’s saving grace.

Fighting Ingratitude

If we’re honest, even though we know we should be thankful, we struggle on a daily basis to be content with what God has given us. We act as if God owes us the gospel. We assume God’s blessings, both spiritual and physical, rather than rejoice in them.

To fight against ingratitude, we must continually expose ourselves to Scripture and let God disabuse us of the idea that we deserve better. We need our eyes opened regularly to the reality and ugliness of sin. This enables us to see the gospel for what it is—a gift. Of course, we won’t always feel thankful—our emotions often fluctuate—but we should be intentional about cultivating a grateful heart. Hebrews 13:5 reminds us that God’s grace and his presence should be enough to make us content:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

God has not only saved us, but he has also promised to be with us in every circumstance. Furthermore, he has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). How can we be ungrateful in light of such grace? Only unbelievers live like that.

David Burnette serves as the Chief Editor for Radical. He lives with his wife and three kids in Birmingham, Alabama, and he serves as an elder at Philadelphia Baptist Church. He received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


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