What is Thanksgiving (According to the Bible)?

Dustin Crowe
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Thanksgiving includes God’s works and gifts, but it goes beyond them. God deserves our thanks both for who He is and what He’s done. We give thanks for God’s actions on our behalf. We also thank God for who He is and for revealing Himself to us. God’s glory invites us to lean in with wonder and exclaim the beauty of it back to Him. Telling God why we’re wowed by Him is the worshipful response of thanksgiving. It’s how we rejoice in God being God and us getting the blessing of glimpsing His glory.

It’s like how the grandeur of nature causes us to take pictures and share them through social media, or even go old-school by printing them out. Think of what you feel in the moment when caught up in awe before creation and how you respond. Seeing the towering splendor of Mount Rainier as it rises high above the horizon, gawking up at the magnificent California redwoods stretching to heaven, or feeling the refreshing spray of Niagara Falls bellowing back up into your face—these moments do something in us. They awaken awe. They compel us to come back, tell others, post pictures, buy souvenirs, and cling to these memories. Other than what comes from such wonder, there’s no immediate personal benefit. You don’t go home with a bigger bank account. Stresses at home or work don’t vanish. And yet, these things fade out of mind when we are caught up in something amazing.

Because He’s a God of grace, we become a people of praise.

We lose ourselves in glory and want to tell others. That’s a picture of what happens in worship. God’s majesty evokes awe in us that must come out of us in praise and thanksgiving.

If we narrowly define thanksgiving, separating it from a worshipful response to God’s attributes by limiting it to God’s actions, we’ll shrink its influence in our life. God’s attributes are perceived through His actions, so the two are tethered together. But even when we consider God’s nature above and beyond concrete blessings, we can thank God because we find joy and delight in what we see of Him. His glory kindles our gratitude.

As God’s people, we thank God when we learn about His attributes because who He is as God affects us. His goodness isn’t an impersonal trait. It allows us to trust Him with our daily stresses. His righteousness gives us confidence He will do nothing wrong, evil, or with unjust motives. All He is as God has a direct bearing on our life as God’s creatures, but even more so, as God’s sons and daughters. Because He’s a God of grace, we become a people of praise.

For Further Reading:

The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks

by Dustin Crowe

The apostle Paul instructed the Philippians to be anxious in nothing and thankful in everything. And when he said everything—he meant...

book cover for The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks