From an early age we are taught to say “please” and “thankyou”. We might hold something out before a child and say – “what do you say” and we wait until they say “please”. And as soon as we then give it to them the next question comes – “now what do you say” – hoping they will say thank you. Hopefully over the years those please and thankyous will come more naturally rather than as a response to a directive. And even though we at times give something to someone from the goodness of our hearts without expecting anything in return, if they don’t say “thank you” we might reconsider giving them something again. God is not dependant on our thanks before he gives us anything. In fact, as we hear in the bible – it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us. It was while we didn’t deserve anything that God gave us everything. So why is it good – perhaps even important – for us to give thanks to God? Is it for God’s sake that we learn to thank God? No! It’s for ours; that’s because of our human tendency is to become complacent about what God has gifted us with.
We see it so often in society that instead of being thankful for what we have received we become ungrateful and complain about what we have not received. Even those that receive welfare come to expect it as their right rather than a generosity. It’s human nature that goes right back to Adam and Eve who while they had everything given to them from God, they looked for the one thing God asked them to leave alone. Instead of being thankful for the life and all the gifts God gave to them they believe the temptation of the devil that there was still more that God owed them. The bible shows that even the most loved and dedicated servants of God easily fall back into the same ways of greed when they stop giving thanks to God. King David, the benchmark of all Kings in the Old Testament – loved and favoured by God – even he allowed his greed to replace his thankfulness: When David took another man’s wife – the Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him he told David a story: He said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. “Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” David burned with anger against the man. He couldn’t see that he was the one being described in the story. He said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you. I gave your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.
Notice the character of God in that rebuke of Nathan to David:
- I gave you your master’s house.
- I gave you all Israel and Judah.
- I would have given you even more.
- And that is the nature of God – to give.
Just as he gave Adam and Eve life and gave them all that they needed for life – we hear in our Gospel reading that giving continues despite our rebellion.
God loved the world so much that he gave us his one and only Son. When the first communicants come to Holy Communion today for the first time they will hear the invitation and response: Let us give thanks to Lord – And the response – for that is fitting and right. It is truly fitting and right that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to you O Lord, Holy Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Giving thanks helps us to remember that all that we have, even if we’ve worked hard and long hours for it, is still a gift from God. As Martin Luther explained in the Apostles’ Creed – I believe that God has created me and all that exists. He has given me and still preserves my body and soul with all their powers. He provides me with food and clothing, home and family, daily work and all I need from day to day. All this he does out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy though I do not deserve it. Therefore I surely ought to thank and praise, serve and obey him. How easy it is to slip back into the understanding that everything I have comes from the sweat of MY brow – so why should I thank anyone for it. And that’s when we begin to lose the joy of everything. We don’t see what we have as blessings from God but things I’ve earnt and deserved. And then we begin to see all of life like that we and believe we deserve more. And when we see others blessed by God we aren’t thankful but resentful. What did they do to deserve that? But what did we do to deserve Jesus dying for OUR sins?
Giving thanks is an important part of our children’s development but we must never forget to give thanks as we mature. Because it reminds us that God is the giver of all that we have. And even in times where we think that we have not much to be thankful for, we can join with King David and his Psalm of thanksgiving, Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.