This next week, all kinds of people from all kinds of places with all kinds of backgrounds will gather together. And all these very diverse people will, strangely, do many of the same things. They will eat. They will watch football. They will eat again. And probably they will give thanks.
There is a certain irony to that, isn’t there? That all these people – whether they actually believe in God or not – do the same thing that Christians do. It ought to make us wonder, as Christians, what is distinctly Christian about our gratitude. Surely there is something different, even if the action might look the same in the moment. That is, Christians and non-Christians alike might go around the table and, one at a time, each name something they are thankful for. But surely, in that moment, there has to be something different about the table of the Christian.
What is that? What is distinct about Christian gratitude? The answer comes in the foundation, for the foundation of Christian thanksgiving is the character of God.
If you went into a home in your community right now, you might make all kinds of comment. You might admire the clean design lines or the open floor plan. You might gush over the way it’s decorated or the welcoming atmosphere that has been created. But you probably won’t walk into a home and remark on the foundation:
“My goodness, this home is really structurally sound! I bet there is a beautiful array of rebar and concrete and stone under there!” Of course not. We don’t say that because we don’t often think about the foundation, but that doesn’t change the importance of that foundation. Because it doesn’t matter how beautifully a home is decorated, if the foundation is unstable, then eventually the decorations won’t matter. The structure will fail.
The same thing is true in a spiritual sense. As we all gather together next week and each of us names that individual thing they are particularly thankful for, the Christian distinction comes in the foundation of that thanksgiving. You might be thankful for your health, or the achievements of your kids, or your work situation, but the plain truth is that those things will inevitably change. You will not be healthy forever. Your job situation will change. Your children will not always make the right choices. And if the foundation is not sound, then the entire structure of gratitude will crumble when those circumstantial blessings ebb and flow.
Psalm 100 reminds us that we, as Christians, have a deeper motivation and foundation for thanksgiving than these circumstances:
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
God is good. His love endures forever. He is faithful through all generations. This – the unchanging character of God – is the true foundation for thanksgiving. It is a good and right thing for us, as Christians, to give thanks for the circumstances in our lives. But even as we do, it is a good and right thing for us to remember the undergirding for our thanksgiving.
It is the character of God. And the character of God does not change. Therefore our posture of gratitude does not change. The act of giving thanks, then, flows from our overall posture of gratitude. We are always rejoicing. Perpetually giving thanks. Never stopping in our gratitude. Because the deepest reservoir of that thanksgiving is in God Himself and not just the blessings He allows.
Think on it as we approach Thursday of next week, Christian. Be reminded of who God is, and let the thanksgiving bubble up inside you.