The fourth Thursday of November is the day each year when our nation takes time to express our gratitude for all the blessings that God has showered upon us from our inception until the present day. Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday that is testimony to the fact that this country was founded by men who believed in the Christian faith. No other nation on earth so openly acknowledges and celebrates its dependence upon God, or attributes its prosperity so directly to His blessing.
Unfortunately, the gratitude and spirit of thanksgiving that prompted our founders to acknowledge and honor God for His abundant blessings has greatly waned in recent years. Society in general has become much more self-absorbed than at any time in our history. As a result, people are much less likely to express even the most basic levels of gratitude which were at one time commonplace. In addition to this, they are far less likely to honor and thank God for all He has done for them. It is a sad commentary on how far we as a people have fallen from the lofty ideals upon which our nation was established, and to which we are called by the scriptures.
The principle of thankfulness is found virtually from cover to cover in the scriptures. The psalms are a particularly powerful example of this. The word “thanks” appears dozens of times in these spiritual songs and in each instance the songwriter’s intent is to glorify God by acknowledging His abundant blessings and thanking Him for them. No Jew who sang these psalms could fail to see the importance of giving thanks to God.
During the Lord’s earthly ministry He drew attention to this principle when He cleansed ten lepers. In Lk. 17:11-19 the scripture says that these men begged the Lord for mercy as He passed by them. In response He told them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they were going, they were healed. In v. 15 Luke tells us that one of the men, upon seeing that he had been healed, immediately turned and went back to the Lord. He fell at the Lord’s feet, giving praise to God and thanking the Lord for healing him.
The Lord accepted this man’s expression of gratitude, but asked about the other men. In vs. 17-18 He said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine–where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” These questions show that the Lord was disappointed in the ingratitude of the nine men who failed to give thanks for their healing. The fact that the lone man who did express thanks was a Samaritan only made this omission worse. The other men were Jews, who should have been the first to give thanks because they were God’s covenant people.
The lesson for us to learn from this episode is that it is vital for us to express our gratitude to God for all He has done for us. We must thank Him for the beautiful world in which we live, which He created to take care of all of our physical needs until the end of time. We must thank Him for the blessing of forgiveness through the blood of His Son, by which we have the hope of eternal life. We must thank Him for His promise to provide for all our needs if we seek Him first. We must thank Him for hearing our prayers and answering them in the way that is best for us in every case.
If we take the time each day to do as the old hymn says, “Count your many blessings — name them one by one”, we cannot help but give thanks to the Lord. We have received from God’s hand much more than we deserve, especially in view of the gift of eternal life. Therefore, let us never fail to give thanks to Him every day.