Gratitude

Preaching and Worship Resources about Gratitude

The apt response to a gift, gratitude is the hearty, appreciative sense of being blessed by and indebted to someone, always including God.

In Scripture

"O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples" (1 Chron. 16:8).

Sacrifice "Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God" (Ps. 50:23).

I Will Extol You "You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you" (Ps. 118:28).

His Steadfast Love Endures FOREVER "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever" (Ps. 136:1).

Jesus' Gratitude "Jesus looked upward and said, `Father, I thank you for having heard me'" (John 11:41).

Through Our Lord "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57).

Triumphal Procession "Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him" (2 Cor. 2:14).

"I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers" (Eph. 1:16).

"Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6, 7).

"Be thankful. . . . With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:15-17).

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5:18).

Reverence and Awe "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe" (Heb. 12:28).

Points to Ponder

Dankbarkeit One of the jewels of the Reformation, The Heidelberg Catechism, names gratitude (Dankbarkeit) as the prevailing motive of the Christian life. In "all our living" we are to "show that we are thankful to God for all he has done for us." So regenerated Christians keep the Ten Commandments and pray out of hearts that are full of Dankbarkeit.

All Circumstances 1 Thessalonians 5:18 issues a glad summons to "give thanks in all circumstances." The preposition is important — "in," not "for." We don't thank God for cancer, or for any evil thing, as if God caused it or wanted it. God is light; in God there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Yet even in evil circumstances God may bring forth goodness — strength, patience, humility, dependence on God, closeness to God. Give thanks in all circumstances.

The grateful Christian, moving gracefully through life with genial readiness to find good "in all circumstances" will sometimes have to scrounge it up out of unpromising materials. In Marilynne Robinson's novel Gilead the chief character's mother has hung her hand-washed bedsheets to dry on the clothesline. A storm comes up and soaks the heavy sheets till they break the clothesline and are lying in mud. Her response: "I know there is a blessing in this somewhere."

Christians are grateful to God. It's deeply satisfying to have someone personal to thank. It's much harder to be "grateful in general." That's a little like being married in general.

Indebted The definition above includes the notion of being indebted. Some people doubt that a grateful person is indebted: after all, isn't it a gift she is indebted for, and if it's a gift, how can she owe anything? So far, so good. She doesn't owe money, or a similar gift back. But she does owe thanks. She has a debt of gratitude. And the giver has a right to expect her thanks.

Healthy Rhythm The giving of thanks is a regular upbeat in the rhythm of a healthy Christian life. The Psalms ring with thanksgiving for the whole catalog of God's goods and services. For God's rescue work, for the law that puts spine in our lives, for the tender mercies of God that settle in around us even when we have shamed ourselves — for these things, and so much more, the poets of God send up their thanks like thousands of helium balloons. The psalms are mostly prayers and calls to prayer. But Paul does something else. Paul proclaims the great dying and rising events of Christ, binds us to these events, and then describes the style of life that naturally follows. Since we have already died and risen with Christ in our baptism, says Paul in Colossians 3, we ought to keep the rhythm going. We ought to let our old self drown and our new self rise like some glistening swimmer whose rescued life can never again be the same. Since you have been raised with Christ, let gloating die and let compassion arise. Let malice die and let kindness arise. Kindness is, after all, not a moral handout, not a sort of emotional welfare we angrily pay out to the undeserving. No, kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience are the family style for the people of God. They show we have the rhythm of Christ. And so it is with thanksgiving. Everything in Colossians 3 follows from its opening clause "Since you have been raised with Christ." Since you have been raised with Christ, be thankful, sing with gratitude in your hearts, give thanks to God through Christ. Three times in a row Paul urges thanksgiving as a natural feature of our resurrected character. Why? What's the point? Surely not simply to keep the goods flowing, as if we were caged rats who had discovered the food lever. What's the point of thanksgiving? Surely not to fulfill some unstated contract with God: We like goods. God likes thanks. Even Steven. No, thanksgiving as an upbeat in the rhythm of Christian life falls instead into a category that is easier to illustrate than to define. Thanksgiving falls into the category of what is fitting for grateful people. Fittingness isn't the sort of thing you can explain very well. It's like a joke. You either get it or you don't, and if you don't, you shouldn't ask to have it explained. Fittingness. In so many ways God is a giver. How fitting it is that we should, so to speak, return the compliment. God gives and we give back. Among the things we have to give is the kind of hearty thanks that is right and proper and fitting.

The Life that God Intended Gratitude fits people who have been raised with Christ. Gratitude is part of the family uniform of the people of God. In God's world, what's right is also what's wise. It's right to express thanks to God. It's wise to do so too. As positive psychologists have been noting since about 2000, gratitude is a powerful engine of joy, of calmness, of lower blood pressure, and of many other benefits. The grateful person is living life the way God intended.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.