Grace and Gratitude This Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving serves a variety of purposes. For many, we gather with family and friends. We feast, we laugh, we remember. For others, Thanksgiving is a welcome couple-days-off, punctuated by football and food. For some, it’s simply the prelude to the hunt. It’s a day to plan and get organized before the doors open and the shopping begins.
Christians know that Thanksgiving is a day for giving thanks. You don’t have to be a linguist to recognize that the purpose for the day is baked right into the structure of the word. Most Christians will devote some time on Thursday to giving thanks. Perhaps a few extra minutes in the quiet time or a lap around the table, remembering the kindnesses of God in the last year. This is well and good. But for the Christian, there is a deeper significance to the day.
For the Christian, Thanksgiving is not primarily commercial, it is not merely nostalgic, it is not even chiefly familial. It is about the gospel. John Stott captures this well as he explains Romans 12:1–2, “[Paul] knows—not least from his own experience—that there is no greater incentive to holy living than a contemplation of the mercies of God. It is not by accident that in Greek one and the same noun (charis) does duty for both ’grace’ and ‘gratitude’” (John Stott, Romans, 321).
Paul saw this connection between grace and gratitude, and it changed the way he lived. Paul was a thoroughly grateful man (if you’re not convinced of this, try searching for the word “thanks” in the New Testament), long before there was a day devoted to gratitude. And he urged others to do the same, every day, and in all things: “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.” (Colossians 3:17).
For the Christian, every day is Thanksgiving. While we set aside a single day each year to remember the grace we’ve been shown and express our gratitude to God for his many mercies, we don’t need to wait until next year to do it again. We don’t need a nationally observed holiday to remember what we’ve been given in Christ and what we’ve been saved from through Christ.
My prayer for us all is that this Thanksgiving will be a thoroughly grateful day, as it should be. And I pray that it will also motivate us afresh to express our gratitude—every day—for the grace of the gospel and the many gifts we’ve been given through Christ.