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Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

by Rev. Christopher Thoms, SEU Ohio Graduate Assistant


And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19-20, NASB, emphasis added).

In a worship service more than forty years ago led by Dr. Sam Farina, our pastor at Christian Assembly, we learned the newly composed words to a song: “Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One; give thanks because he’s given Jesus Christ, his Son. And now let the weak say, 'We are strong!' Let the poor say, 'We are rich, because of what the Lord has done for us!' Give thanks. Give thanks.”[1]


The practice of secular courtesy is dwindling but even when evident, it often amounts to little more than perfunctory receipts for services rendered. By contrast, the biblical concept of gratitude is a heartfelt showing and returning of appreciation and kindness.[2] As Christians, we routinely express our gratitude to God for our salvation. We want to be the grateful woman who—heedless of the censorious Pharisees—covers Jesus’ feet with our tears and hair, perfume and kisses (Luke 7:36-50); or the one of ten lepers who returns to Jesus to give thanks for our healing (Luke 17:11-19). Yet, Pastor Sam spoke of the importance of additional expressions of gratitude.


Our children knew—whether receiving a gift or an apology—a sincere response was required. It was not acceptable to deflect the request for forgiveness (however meagerly offered), with a “That’s all right.” They knew they had to forgive and receive forgiveness. Pastor Sam challenged us to considerately review what we receive and from whom we receive it. He asked whether we appreciate and acknowledge our indebtedness to others. Doing so has benefits. Failure to do so has consequences.


In 1 Samuel 25, we learn that Nabal’s ingratitude would have proven fatal to him and his people if his wise wife’s expression of gratitude had not redeemed them all. May we all have an Abigail to guard against our churlishness. While there is yet time, we may (and should) thank our faithful parents, pastors, and teachers, along with siblings, relations, friends, and certainly—if married—our spouse.


Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the stoic philosopher of Ancient Rome warns, “He is ungrateful who denies that he has received a kindness which has been bestowed upon him; he is ungrateful who conceals it; he is ungrateful who makes no return for it; most ungrateful of all is he who forgets it.”[3]


Other small boats came from Tiberias near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks (John 6:23, NASB).


One additional example Pastor Sam gave was that we should not neglect to express gratitude for our employment. During Advent each year since, I express my appreciation to my supervisors. In the context of Pastor Sam’s sermon, I fashion a scriptural Christmas card of gratitude. Initially, I was doing it for myself, yet I found that those to whom I expressed my appreciation were moved, which in turn moved me. Some shared that they started emulating the practice with their bosses. For some, that initial expression of kindness preceded their receiving saving grace. In reading the above verse from John’s Gospel, I smiled as I realized that my one small act of gratitude was drawing others to Jesus, who, our example in all things, teaches us to give thanks in all things.[4]


With a grateful heart, we wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Grace and peace,

Christopher

[1] Henry Smith, composer, Give Thanks, (Brentwood, TN: Integrity's Hosanna! Music, 1978). [2] https://get.tithe.ly/blog/gratitude-in-the-bible-give-thanks-with-a-grateful-heart (accessed 15 November, 2023) [3] L. A. Seneca, On Benefits, Book III. L. Annaeus Seneca, on Benefits, by Seneca (gutenberg.org) (accessed 14 November, 2023). [4] 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

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