The Gospel According to Thanksgiving

This is the Gospel according to thanksgiving—when we give thanks, we admit our inadequacy and God's perfect adequacy to give us joy in Him.
Camden McAfee

Camden McAfee


Thanksgiving—the action and the holiday–is a beautiful reflection of the Gospel. The Gospel is the message that (1) we are broken people in need of a Savior, (2) Jesus stepped in gave Himself, and (3) when we receive that, we become new creations. Looking at thanksgiving, we see something similar.

Gospel According to Thanksgiving
Photo Credit: Cameron Nordholm via Compfight cc

1. Thanksgiving reveals we are broken people

All of us wish we were more thankful. Thanksgiving begins when we realize we are not all-deserving. If we believed we were entitled to all things, we wouldn’t be thankful. Thanksgiving is honestly admitting we do not deserve the good things we are offered.

2. Thanksgiving Requires a Giver

Thanksgiving is intensely personal. You don’t thank karma for working in your favor, because karma is an abstract concept. You thank your mother for making a delicious Thanksgiving dish because your mother is a person.

You give thanks to God because God is a person.

God gave (John 3:16). If we really believe that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1), then everything we have has been given (or entrusted) to us by God.

3. Thanksgiving Produces New Life in Us and Others

Giving thanks necessitates a giver and a receiver. One person thanks, another receives the thanksgiving. You may walk outside, see a beautiful sunset, and feel joy, but that’s not the same thing as responding to that joy. Thanksgiving is the completion of joy.

Let me build on that statement, “Thanksgiving is the completion of joy.” Think about it this way: Have you ever heard a joke so funny you had to tell someone? (Ask me sometime about the Mexican magician—it’s one of my favorites). You share a good joke because you know it’ll bring joy to others just as it brought joy to you.

Why do we take and share pictures of food or animals or landscape? Isn’t it because we find some amount of joy in those things, and we want to express that joy and share it with others?

Likewise, if we couldn’t share jokes or tell someone about an amazing meal, it would make the experience incomplete. In the same way, we can go through life without giving thanks to God, but somehow, it leaves the experience incomplete.

I love what C.S. Lewis writes about WHY we should give God thanks. Check this out:

It is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to men. …For many people at many times the “fair beauty of the Lord” is revealed briefly or only while they worship Him together.  Even in Judaism the essence of the sacrifice was not really that men gave bulls and goats to God, but that by their so doing God gave Himself to men; in the central act of our own worship, of course, this is far clearer — there it is manifestly, even physically, God who gives and we who receive.

It’s in giving worship and thanks to God that we realize how much He has given to us. What I love even more is that God is revealed “briefly or only while they worship Him together.”

This is the Gospel according to thanksgiving, that when we give thanks, we admit our inadequacy and God’s perfect adequacy to give us joy in Him.

When we come together—around the Thanksgiving meal or at a church service—and share our expressions of thanksgiving to God, it’s us who receive and share the joy of God’s presence.

What keeps us from being thankful people? How can we strengthen our thanksgiving? I’d love to hear your thoughts or feedback in the comments below.

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