Giving Thanks Always

“…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” –Ephesians 5:20

That verse was part of last week’s passage from Ephesians, in our current message series through this important epistle. And it is an appropriate reminder for all of us as we head into a week we set aside for celebrating thanksgiving.

We all learned in school about the history of the American holiday we call “Thanksgiving,” how it originated in the harvest celebration of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1621. I still can recall tales of Pilgrims sitting down with Indians for a first thanksgiving meal, with oversized buckles on their hats and belts and shoes. And of course, the menu was turkey. And who can forget drawing a turkey with the outline of your hand?

After the Pilgrims, the early fathers of our nation encouraged the celebration of Thanksgiving, and president George Washington issued a proclamation in 1789. President Abraham Lincoln made it official during the Civil War in 1863, proclaiming a national holiday of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” on the final Thursday of November. It was FDR who moved it to the fourth Thursday, during a five Thursday November in 1939, to give merchants an extra week to sell their goods and help draw the nation out of the Great Depression.

One thing that is often overlooked is how the harvest celebration of those first Americans had its precedent in Scripture. Throughout the Old Testament, there were feasts in Israel that included giving thanks for the blessings of the various harvests. The Feast of Firstfruits in the early spring, the Feast of Weeks and Pentecost in late spring, and the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall all focused on thanksgiving for harvests during the agricultural year. And the assumption behind every feast was recognizing from whom those blessings had come. Thanks be to God.

Now, we know that in the New Testament Christ fulfilled those ceremonial feasts so that there were no more official days of thanksgiving. And that’s where verses like Ephesians 5:20 come into play. We don’t just offer our thanks at a certain season, or even on a certain day, but we are “giving thanks always,” and we do so “for everything.” Which means, as I said in the message on Sunday, for the follower of Christ the “season” of Thanksgiving lasts from January 1 to December 31 each year.

But are we really “giving thanks always”? We live in a world that is characterized by discontent, always wanting more and rarely grateful for what we have. You certainly hear a lot more complaining in our day than any expressions of gratitude. To be truly thankful and to live like it is to go against the flow, to be downright counter-cultural.

That’s why, in some ways, Thanksgiving is the quintessential Christian holiday. It is a statement of contentment in God’s providential provision, it is a recognition that there our blessings originate outside of ourselves, in a God who is good to us, and it is making the intentional effort to express our gratitude to that God for His faithful provision. So, let us give thanks always, for everything, for God is good to us.

Here’s wishing you a blessed Thanks-giving, this week, and all the year round. “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18)