How many of you grew up where saying “thank you” was enforced? And if you didn’t say “thank you,” your mom would flash that disgruntled scowl at you. These childhood experiences make me wonder if giving thanks is an obligation or a privilege? Do we have to give thanks, or do we get to give thanks?
Since the month of November started I’ve seen several Facebook posts of what people are thankful for. It must be some sort of challenge or something to give thanks every day for something as we approach Thanksgiving. Although I haven’t participated in this, it’s a great idea.
I’ve also seen people attempt to record 1000 gifts (based on Ann Voskamp’s book 1000 Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are). It’s all in the spirit of being thankful for what we’ve been given; being appreciative of the people and things God has put in our lives to bless us.
But, do we have to give thanks, or do we get to give thanks?
Listen to the Apostle Paul’s take: “You need to know, friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it’s a must. We have to do it. Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully. Why, it’s only right that we give thanks. We’re so proud of you; you’re so steady and determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you. We tell everyone we meet in the churches all about you” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, MSG).
In the same sentence, Paul says thanking God is not only a pleasure, it’s a must. He says, “We have to do it.” He says, “…it’s only right that we give thanks.”
If we read the passage again, we see plenty of good reasons why Paul gives thanks for this group of people. Their faith is growing, they have great love for each other, and they’ve remained steady and determined despite hard times.
In the very next chapter Paul writes, “we’ve got our hands full continually thanking God for you, our good friends—so loved by God!” Paul continues to be thankful for his good friends. Paul also recognizes the fact that these good friends are so loved by God. Cool, huh?
As I reflect on this passage, I gotta ask… Which are we more thankful for: the people in our lives or the possessions in our lives? Which are we more grateful for: our connections or our collections? Which are we more appreciative of: our relationships or our rubbish?
This passage gives me pause to reflect on the many people who have touched my life. I cherish my family members—immediate, distant, in-laws, and out-laws. I treasure my dear friends, long term friends, temporary friends, friends who have only been a part of my life for a season, brand new friends, and friends I haven’t even met yet. These are all people. Real people. People so loved by God.
I don’t know whether we have to give thanks or we get to give thanks, but I do know for sure that God has blessed me with some wonderful, impressive, godly, faith-filled, gracious, and amazing friends and family. And I agree with Paul in saying “it’s only right that I give thanks” and I indeed “have my hands full continually thanking God” for these folks. I’m blessed!
As Thanksgiving approaches, who (not what) are you thankful for?