The heading of this Editorial is taken from Ephesians 5:20, being a part of the list of instructions the apostle Paul is giving the Ephesian brethren concerning how they should live Christian lives.
In some countries, including the United States and Canada, there is a specified day for observing Thanksgiving. While this is right and good to keep, God wants us to be thankful always, for our whole life, and when we understand it fully, even carrying over into our eternal life.
In God’s Word, the first mention of the term “thanksgiving” is in Leviticus 7, verses 11 to 15. A peace offering could be offered for thanksgiving. Verse 12 tells us: “If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, unleavened cakes mixed with oil….” It will be noticed that thanksgiving was a sacrifice to God.
In this case, the person giving the peace offering as a thanksgiving, was coming before God with a reason to be thankful. It could be an event or situation in their life that they were thankful for—probably, after some kind of blessing they had received. It was the person’s choice of whether and when to give it. This sacrifice of thanksgiving was to be given at the person’s own free will (compare Leviticus 22:29).
There are a multitude of examples in the Bible of people giving thanks. And usually giving thanks was accompanied with praising God.
King David had many reasons to thank and praise God: for deliverance from his enemies, for God’s great works and for His mercy. One interesting occurrence of thanking God was for providing great physical blessings to the people of Israel when they gave in preparation for the building of God’s temple (see 1 Chronicles 29:13-14).
King David knew that giving thanks and praising God was so important that he arranged groups of Levites to thank and praise God every morning and every evening as a formal ceremony (compare 1 Chronicles 23:30).
Solomon, David’s son, also arranged musicians and singers to praise and thank God at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 5:13).
Later, at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Levites again sang praises and gave thanks to God when the foundation of the house of God was laid (Ezra 3:11). They also gave thanks when the walls of the city were dedicated (Nehemiah 12:27).
Daniel thanked and praised God for giving him wisdom and the revelation of the king’s dream, thus saving Daniel, his three friends and many others from death (Daniel 2:23).
Jesus Christ, in a number of occasions, gave thanks before providing food for His disciples and many others (Matthew 15:36). He also thanked the Father for hearing Him at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:41). What may be surprising is that He thanked His Father for hiding understanding from the wise, but revealing it to babes (Luke 10:21).
The apostle Paul was another person who often mentioned that he was thankful. In many of his epistles, he thanked God for the members in various Church congregations and prayed for them continually. This is mentioned in nine of his epistles.
He thanked the Father and Christ for putting him into the ministry (1 Timothy 1:12), and for giving the victory and repentance to the members. He was also thankful that some members had risked their lives for him (Romans 16:3-4).
He mentioned many times that we are to be thankful in all things—even in persecutions. But he also gave a warning that in the last times, men would be unthankful, among many other negative characteristics (2 Timothy 3:1-2).
Christ Himself remarked on this when He healed ten lepers. Only one, a foreigner, returned to thank Him for such a remarkable healing (Luke 17:15-18).
When we look at the characteristics of the Church of the Laodiceans, we see that they think they are rich and wealthy and have need of nothing (Revelation 3:17). A person with this attitude is very unlikely to be thankful to God for what they have.
There are many more examples that could be mentioned, but this gives us a summary of many of the things we should be thankful for, and warnings of being unthankful.
When we think of the opening Scripture in Ephesians 5:20, we see that we are commanded to give thanks for all things—both the good things and things we may consider not so good. But Paul reminds us that all things work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28). This shows that even things that we may consider not so good are for our benefit in God’s overall scheme of things. So, it is profitable to find something good in every situation and thank God for it.
Again, let’s look at the example of Daniel. When his life was threatened if he prayed to any god or man except the king, he prayed and gave thanks before his God three times, as his custom was (Daniel 6:10). It was more important for Daniel to pray to God and thank Him than to be concerned about his own life.
To be thankful requires humility and overcoming lust and greed. It entails appreciation for what we have rather than lusting after what we do not have. God knows that our human nature is filled with vanity, selfishness, lust and greed; and of itself, it is not thankful. Thankfulness gets our mind off ourselves and acknowledges God’s hand in our lives. We acknowledge that we did not achieve anything by ourselves.
So, we should always remember that what we have; what we are; and especially the understanding of God’s plan for our eternal life are all blessings from God, directly or indirectly. Accordingly, we should give God thanks always for all things.