I love grace, and grace loves me back. Actually, that should go the other way, Grace love me, and I love grace back. Yeah, that’s better. If you’ve read my blog much or have listened to my sermons, you already know grace is my central theme. On this Thanksgiving week, I thought it would be fun to explore the linkages between God’s amazing grace, and our attitude of thankfulness. I’m just trying to dig underneath Thanksgiving to see what it’s really about.
Here are four links I can think of… in the comments you can add some more.
1. The Linguistic Link
Language stores up the accumulated wisdom of a culture — and the words for thankfulness reveal the conceptual link between grace and giving thanks.
When my Greek friends say thank you, it sounds like this: ev-kar-ees-TOE. They are actually saying eucharisto in their own, beautifully Greek way. That term, Eucharist, has come to refer to the Lord’s Supper, or communion — that symbolic meal in which we remember the Lord’s death and give him thanks. It simply means thank you, and is translated Thanksgiving in Scripture.
What you might not know is that the word itself has two parts. The prefix eu– means good, valuable, or pleasant. The word charis is the main Greek word for grace. The word for grace is literally at the heart of thanksgiving.
The English language joins the club with the words gratitude and grateful, preserving the Latin word gratia, at the core. Gratia means grace in Latin just as charis means grace in Greek.
To be grateful is to recognize yourself as having been filled with grace. Even our words retain the distant memories of the linkage between thanksgiving and grace.
2. The Theological Link
To say thank you is to recognize an act as an undeserved favor. You don’t write a thank you card for your paycheck; you earned that thing. When you work hard and earn an A in a class, you don’t fall on your knees and thank your teacher for the A. No, your teacher owed you that A — you earned it. You’d be angry if you didn’t get it, just as you’d be angry if your boss withheld your paycheck.
The Bible recognizes this: “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” (Romans 4:4, NKJV).
But when that birthday present lands in your lap, or when you find your surprise iPad hidden in your spouse’s secret hiding place — when a gift is given freely without regard to what you earn or deserve, then it is a true grace, and the only decent thing to do is say THANK YOU. Especially when someone else paid the price.
To say “thank you” is to acknowledge the receipt of grace.
In our relationship with God, EVERYTHING is grace. He never owes you, never is in your debt. If even a droplet of goodness has dripped in your direction from the divine hand, you owe God a great big thank you. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15, NKJV).
3. The Psychological Link
Sometimes we sever the link between thanksgiving and grace. This happens when we delude ourselves into an entitlement mentality. God owes me. The world owes me. My parents owe me. Society owes me. “The Man” owes me. Karma owes me. Whatever. This little bit of unreality is brought to you by your own lunacy. “What do you have that you did not receive [by grace]?” (1 Corinthians 4:7, NKJV).
To be unthankful is to refuse to acknowledge the grace in your life.
The beginning of entitlement is the end of grace and the death of a thankful spirit. Such ingratitude amazed Jesus. After he healed ten lepers only one returned to give thanks, and he was a Samaritan. Where were the other nine? “Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:18, NKJV).
Where were the other nine? I don’t know. Look around the room you’re in; you just may see one. To be pouty, whiny, unthankful, or bitter… to complain about what you don’t have… to simply neglect giving thanks… is to sever your emotional life from the MOUNTAINS OF GRACE God is ready to pour out upon you.
Big mistake. I can think of nothing more miserable than a graceless existence. It is a psychologically damaging way to live.
If you need help being thankful, here’s a tip: start with your shoes and work your way up. Giving thanks produces thankfulness.
4. The Mystical Link
You are not alone if you have Jesus. He is closer to you thank you realize. If you are a Christian, he indwells you.
Why? To make you into the kind of person he was on planet earth. This doesn’t mean he sucks the personality out of you and makes you a Christlette Clone. No. He makes you yourself with all the color added, with all his character and virtue infused.
What kind of person was Jesus? HE WAS A THANKFUL PERSON. (John 11:41; Matt 11:25; Mark 14:23).
This means that every day, 24/7, the power of Christ works within you to bubble up with thanksgiving, gratitude, and praise. If you hold that in, you’ll crack. Jesus is inside you, creating a thankful heart… and he doesn’t come with an off-switch. To be unthankful, or to neglect being thankful (different things), is to act AGAINST YOUR NEW NATURE IN CHRIST.
Are you thankful? Christ put that in you. Did you have a grateful spirit? Christ did that. In the end, even the thank you’s that flow from your lips are generated by the power of God, based on the work of God through Christ within.
Even your thank you’s flow from grace. To God be all the praise.
- Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15, NKJV).
- But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57, NKJV).
- Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. (2 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV).
What other links do you see between thanksgiving and grace? What are you especially thankful for this season?