How tasteless some foods are when they lack salt. And how tasteless our lives must be to the Lord when they have lost the aroma of thanksgiving. As the people of God, we should surpass the world in this virtue. God has always required this from His people. Much of the Israelites’ worship under the Law consisted of thanksgiving and thank offerings. I believe that giving thanks is one thing that God values most in His people. We cannot give God anything that could add to His wealth, but we can at least show our thanks for His gifts.
It is a good thing to continually thank the Lord for all that is good. This salt of thanksgiving saves us from gloom and pessimism. As the magnet finds the steel and pulls it out of the rubble, so will the grateful mind find something to praise and be thankful for, even in vexation and difficulties. Thanksgiving saves us from the discontentment that may arise in us because of the inconveniences of life.
A seventy-year-old man was lying on his sick bed. Some of his friends asked him if he had any reason to complain. “No,” said the pious old man, “I thank God for the many years of health that I have enjoyed.” Thanksgiving for past blessings is a powerful anchor in present tribulation. It enables us to receive greater blessings. God gives more abundantly when past gifts are properly esteemed and valued. Think, for example, of Paul and Silas, how they were freed from the dungeon at Philippi and won the jailer and his house for Christ! Wasn’t this, in large part, the result of their singing, praising, and giving thanks on a night when everything seemed dark and discouraging?
Thanksgiving is our duty, a kind of payment due to God who has poured out so many blessings on us. Through it, we testify that we recognize God as the sovereign owner of all things and willingly admit our dependence on Him. It spurs us on to active and pleasing worship. It cultivates a contented mind. It enriches our influence on our fellow man. A happy heart will bring joy to others. The truly grateful person will be a faithful person, and his service will be a service of love.
How often do we come to God with prayers that are full of requests, as a beggar might make them. However, they can be made much sweeter and more attractive to God if they are lightly seasoned with this good salt of gratitude. A prayer without thanks is like a flower without a fragrance. Gratitude is an element of real greatness. It creates and shapes a good character. If we have not already learned to sing songs of thanks here on earth, how will it be for us at the end of our lives, when the gates of heaven open before us and we are to join the choir of angels!
Jesus set a wonderful example for us in this virtue. He taught us to give thanks for what we eat every day. The first thing Jesus did in the miracle of feeding the five thousand was to thank the Father for the loaves and fish. He also gave thanks at the last supper, before the bread and wine were distributed among the disciples. Perhaps at this time He also gave thanks for the fellowship that His death would bring about among Christians. On another occasion, He thanked the Father for the truth He revealed to babes. Oh, how grateful we should be for the truth that is revealed to us today.
Love will find many ways to express the virtue of thankfulness. How do we give the impression that we are grateful for the Word of God if we never read it? Or that we appreciate the Holy Spirit if we never take His advice? Thanksgiving will manifest itself in the proper application of the gifts and blessings of God. It will cause us to put our whole tithe into His granary and to support God’s work with what has been received, rather than just using it for our own selfish gains. That virtue will be expressed by loving and serving others. We can only serve God as we serve our fellow man. The Lord told us: “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). Can we expect God to take our expressed words of thanks at face value as we quietly watch millions of people remain removed from the gospel simply because we rob the Lord to fill our own storehouse?
Thoughtlessness is often the cause of “ingratitude.” If we thought more about God’s goodness, we would thank Him more for it. We cannot list all of His favors, but we can at least thank Him for some. Perhaps there is no Christian virtue that is more neglected than cultivating the spirit of gratitude.
“When you have eaten and are full then beware, lest you forget the LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:11-12).