For What Should You Give Thanks?
By: Gary L. Hutchens
Just a few days ago we celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, in my mind one of the best holidays of all. People put aside their busy schedules. Families come together and eat and talk and enjoy each others company. Many prayers are said reflecting upon the many ways in which they have been blessed. It is a time that motivates people to think more, at least for a little while, about their spiritual lives.
As Christians we should give thanks continually, not just on one day out of the year. For us everyday should be a day of giving thanks; we have so much for which to be thankful. In referencing the phrase “give thanks” in the New Testament (NKJV), it’s rather surprising to learn what usually follows.
Paul gave the example of giving thanks for the food we eat: “But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks?” (1 Cor. 10:30). In teaching against the misuse of the gift of tongues in the first century Paul emphasized that prayers in the public assembly, including giving thanks, should be prayed with clarity so that all present can understand what is being said: “For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.” (1 Cor. 14:17). In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul instructed that we should give thanks in all circumstances: “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18).
In every other instance the phrase “give thanks” is used in reference to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul gave thanks to Priscilla and Aquila for risking their lives for him: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” (Rom. 16:3-4).
Paul gave thanks for the Ephesians in regard to their faith in Christ and their love for all the saints (Christians): “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:” (Eph. 1:15-16). Similarly for the Colossian Christians: “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints;” (Col. 1:3-4).
He gave thanks for the Christians at Thessalonica for their faithful, active and working dedication to the Lord: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.” (1 Thess. 1:2-4). In his second letter to that congregation he gave thanks for their having become Christians: “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess. 2:13-14).
We have much for which to give thanks, and a particular focus emphasized in scripture is our need to continually give thanks and pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ…
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Gary L. Hutchens