And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).
The season of thanksgiving has again come upon us. Many travel great distances to spend time with friends and family as they share a meal in honor of the blessings they have received. At this time of year, most in some way or another focus on the physical blessings of this life. Yet how many forget all about attitudes of thanksgiving throughout the rest of the year?
We who belong to Christ should always be giving thanks to God for all that we have, as Paul says above in Colossians 3:17. We ought to give thanks to God for the physical blessings of this creation, which He has freely bestowed upon us: for our food (1 Timothy 4:3-4), the ability to live (Genesis 1-2), and our abilities to make a living (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3). When we give thanks to God for all of these things, it helps to remind us that we have not gained any of these by our own strength alone, but because of the love God has given to us (Matthew 5:45, 1 Timothy 6:17-19). Israel forgot God when they prospered materially; we would do well not to follow after their footsteps (cf. Deuteronomy 8:11-18, 1 Corinthians 10:1-12)! God deserves our thankfulness always.
Yet we must remember that God has bestowed upon us great spiritual blessings. In 2 Corinthians 9:15, Paul gives thanks to God for His “unspeakable gift.” Said gift can only be the offering of His Son Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 26:29, Romans 5:4-11). Without this gift we would be lost in sin and subject to condemnation (Romans 8:1-11). We would have no hope in the world (1 Corinthians 15:13-19)! Without Jesus, all would be in vain.
Furthermore, it is within Jesus that we have the victory over sin and death, and we are likewise to be thankful for that (1 Corinthians 15:57). We have the hope of our own resurrection through His resurrection from the dead. We can face death with boldness only because of Christ’s victory.
Paul often gives thanks in his letters for the brethren with whom he has association: those in Thessalonica (2 Thessalonians 2:13), Ephesus (Ephesians 1:5), and Colossae (Colossians 1:13). Indeed, we are to give thanks to God that we have the opportunity to partake in the inheritance of the saints (Colossians 1:12) and even more so that we have that opportunity to do so with each other. In His wisdom, God designed the church so as to be a benefit for all involved (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Do we give thanks for our brethren?
What is quite remarkable is how often we are given the charge to give thanks in all circumstances and for every kind of blessing. Such is stated in Ephesians 5:4; 5:20, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 2:7; 3:17; 4:2, and 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Such befits the servant of God who has entirely given him or herself up to God for His service (Galatians 2:20, Matthew 10:34-39). When we completely depend on God and no longer seek to rely upon ourselves or any other, we perceive more clearly how God has blessed us (Colossians 2:7). When we develop a perspective based on thankfulness and dependence on God, we go a long way in reflecting the Son of God within us (cf. Romans 8:29).
We certainly must give thanks to God for all that He has done for us and recognize that we can do nothing to deserve or earn His blessings. Nevertheless, we are to conduct ourselves in our lives so as to be causes for others to give thanks, as Paul indicates in 2 Corinthians 9:10-15. If we show the love, compassion, and mercy of Christ to others in our lives, especially by helping those in need (cf. Galatians 6:10), they will give thanks to God because we have been a blessing to them. It is not enough to thank God for His blessings; we must strive to be blessings to others in His name for His glory!
It is well and good that people come together to give thanks for the material blessings they have received. Yet as the Scriptures so clearly teach, thanksgiving is not to be limited to an annual holiday. We are to give thanks to God constantly for all the material and spiritual blessings which He has so richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ His Son. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being, and He more than deserves our thanks (Acts 17:28). Let us thank God for His blessings and strive to be blessings in the lives of others!
Ethan R. Longhenry