Thanksgiving is more than eating mashed potatoes and gravy, watching football, and taking a wonderful turkey-induced nap.
Thanksgiving is a pervasive and essential concept in Scripture. And although it is good to set aside a Thursday each November to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving, the Scriptures have more to say about giving thanks than one day a year can handle.
Here are five biblical truths about thanksgiving:
1. Thanksgiving Is Trinitarian
The typical pattern of thanksgiving in the New Testament is that God the Father is the object of thanksgiving, God the Son is the person through whom thanksgiving flows, and God the Holy Spirit is the source of thanksgiving. Paul models this in Romans 1:8: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” And Colossians 3:16–17:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 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.
The very presence of thanksgiving points to the Holy Spirit as the source of thanksgiving because without the work of the Spirit it is impossible to please God (Romans 8:5–8).
Christianity does not call for vague thanksgiving to a vague deity. Our God is triune and, as a result, thanksgiving has a Trinitarian flavor. Thanksgiving flows to God the Father, through God the Son, from God the Spirit.
2. Thanksgiving Replaces Sin
When Paul commands believers to stop sinning, he also commands believers to put thanksgiving in its place. Paul writes: “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4).
Paul knows that we are always acting. We either act with sinful, thankless hearts which leads to foolish talk or crude jokes, or we act with thankful hearts and thereby please God with our speech. John Piper explains,
The key to unlocking a heart of gratitude and overcoming bitterness and ugliness and disrespect and violence is a strong belief in God, the Creator and Sustainer and Provider and Hope-giver. If we do not believe we are deeply indebted to God for all we have or hope to have, then the very spring of gratitude has gone dry. (“Violence, Ugliness, and Thanksgiving”)