Is My Thanksgiving Focused Inward or Outward?

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As I began to think through all the things I am thankful for, a troubling pattern began to emerge. It was all the stuff that somehow made me happy or content or at least brought some sense of self-pleasure. This, I realized was somewhat selfish, if not downright selfish. And so, I began to ponder whether “thanksgiving” was inherently just a plain self-centered action.

So, that took back to the Scriptures, and it became clear from the beginning that I had gotten my “thanksgiving” backwards… or rather inwards.

A search of “thanks” got me about a hundred hits, nine of which are in the Chronicles where most are about giving thanks to God because “He is good; His love endures forever” or giving thanks to God for His “holy name”.

In Psalm 7:17, “I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness…

In Psalm 9:1, “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

In the rest of the Psalms, thanks is given to “praise the Lord”, to “extol Him”, to “glorify Him”, to “give thanks and praise His name”, to “give thanks to your holy name”, and even, “give thanks for your righteous laws”.

And then again, repeatedly, in the Psalms and elsewhere, the familiar “give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever”.

In the Gospel, the giving of “thanks”, with one exception, is confined to Jesus giving thanks for food: bread, fish, wine. In the rest of the New Testament, thanks is primarily for Christ’s work in our salvation or for what the Lord is doing in God’s people or the enjoinment to “give thanks in all things”.

This last one demands some more attention.

Paul tells the Colossians that he rejoices in what he was suffering for them and James calls us to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds. If we are to give thanks “in all things” then that includes those things that probably are not giving me a great deal of pleasure at the moment.

All of this should make us realize that our thanksgiving is primarily to be based upon who God is and for the larger story that He is working out around us… in me, my family, my neighbors, in my fellowship… in the Kingdom of God.

All of this, of course, is a far cry from my petty little list of stuff that brings me pleasure.

I’m not saying that it is “wrong” to give thanks for the stuff in our life… our cell phones, the delicious turkey, the dog or cat or my new TV.

But… when we look at the pattern in Scripture for giving thanks, it sure seems to me that my thanksgiving has increasingly turned away from Him and has become more about me. Oh, sure, I’m thanking God for all this stuff, but I’m only thanking Him because all this stuff is bringing me some sort of pleasure.

Which is actually pretty lame.

When we gather at the table tomorrow, maybe it would be good to spend some of our “giving thanks” time on expressing thanks to God just for who He is. Thank Him for His goodness, not because He gives me stuff, but just because He is “good”… that His love endures forever.

It is my practice on Saturdays, in my prayer time, to thank and praise God for His attributes, which I go through in alphabetical order. Maybe that would be an interesting exercise for your family tomorrow. See how many you can name.

May this be a true day of giving thanks as we look less inward and more Outward.

Soli Deo Gloria!




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