Monday, November 21, 2011


It was Thanksgiving Day 1994 that I experienced something that I already knew: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I was on a sabbatical year and happened to be enjoying the Benedictine hospitality of the monks of Worth Abbey in England. I had to keep reminding myself “Today is Thanksgiving Day.” Of course it didn’t feel like Thanksgiving or look like Thanksgiving or smell like Thanksgiving. That’s when I found out for sure how much this day means to me.


This year, 2011, I decided to look up the New Testament verb eucharisteo, “to give thanks,” to see what insights the sacred scripture could add to make this Thanksgiving Day even more special. Maybe some of what I found out will help make your own Thanksgiving a little more special too. Here are a few scripture passages where the verb "to give thanks" occurs. I've added my own reflection after each passage.

“Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Eph 5: 19-20).

Giving thanks “always” not just one day a year, and not for a list of specific things but rather “for everything.” This Thanksgiving Day I’m going to try instead of making a long list of things to be thankful for, to work on developing a conscious attitude of thankfulness in general, especially to God, “from whom all blessings flow.”

“…giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light” (Col 1:12).

And even if you do make a list of things to be thankful for, at the top of the list is the one greatest gift to be thankful for: Salvation in Christ.

"So, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (Col. 2:6-7).
And because of this gift of salvation in Christ we are encouraged to “abound” in thanksgiving. The verb “abound” is used to describe the scene of plenty after the miracle of the loaves and fishes when twelve baskets of scraps “remained over and above.” Imagine if our attitude of thanksgiving overflowed with such abundance!

And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:17).

Here thanksgiving does in fact overflow, permeating our lives by becoming the motive for everything we say or do. That’s an interesting criterion to apply when judging my own actions: “How does this particular action reflect my gratitude to God for everything I’ve been given?”

"In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:18).

Giving thanks in “all circumstances” translates the Greek en panti, literally “in all things.” However you translate it the phrase must mean to give thanks not only in good times but also during difficult and trying ones.


This brief excursion into the New Testament verb for “giving thanks” has given me some challenging meditations that may help me to a deeper appreciation of this beautiful American holiday and the opportunity it gives us to “abound in thanksgiving.”

I pray that the Lord will fill your holidays with thanksgiving this year!


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