We say the word thanks a lot in a day. We thank our spouse for filling up our coffee, we end emails with the word thanks, and we thank people for holding the door for us. As parents, we teach our kids to say thank you when someone gives them a cookie, compliments their new dress, or shares a toy with them. Giving thanks is actually a pretty common occurrence.
So when I think about thanking God, the word thanks seems too small. After all, He gives us everything. He gives us our bodies and everything we need for daily life. He keeps us safe. He gave His Son on the cross to die for our sins so we could have forgiveness and eternal life with Him. He gives us the Holy Spirit to work faith in our hearts through His Word and Sacraments. And He continues to provide for us in mind, body, and spirit all the days of our lives. It seems too little to just say, “Hey, thanks, God!”
Thanksgiving in the Bible
In this season of gratitude, it can be easy to see “giving thanks” as the world sees it—as merely recognizing the good things in your life, appreciating your family, and muttering a quick “Thanks, God” before pumpkin pie.
But Christian Thanksgiving is different. Believers throughout the Bible give us examples to follow as we learn about thanking God (and as we teach our children this too). Consider how these two well-known believers thanked the Lord and how you can do the same in your home this season.
King David had a lot to be thankful for—God made him king of Israel, God helped him win victories over Israel’s enemies, and God forgave him of his sins. We can learn a lot about giving thanks by reading David’s psalms.
The first lesson we learn is that thanking God often takes the form of singing, dancing, and playing instruments. David writes in Psalm 7:17, “I will give to the LORD the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.”
Here are some ideas to focus your family on thanking God through His gift of music.
- Pick one stanza of a hymn or praise song to memorize as a family. Practice it together every night for a week.
- Find items in your home that make music or could be used as a shaker (a toy piano, a box of mac n’ cheese, a kazoo from a birthday party). Then, go around the room and name one thing you thank God for today, playing your instrument loudly after each one.
- Write and decorate cards of thanks to your church musicians or organists.
Another lesson we learn from David is that we are called to thank God in front of others. He writes, “I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations” (Psalm 57:9).
But how does this look in daily life? Keep it simple. Pray before meals in public. Talk with coworkers about what you are thanking Jesus for this Thanksgiving season. Focus on thanking Christ with your children by having conversations like:
- “Let’s thank God that your tummy feels better today.”
- “Let’s have cupcakes tonight and thank God for Lily's baptismal birthday.”
- “Look at all the people in our family and the yummy food on the table. Who gave us all these things? God did, because He loves us! God is so good!”
Paul’s letters are filled with verses of thanks to God. He constantly thanks God for Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil. He thanks God for protecting him and for giving him his brothers and sisters in Christ. As you read these verses, it’s easy to forget that Paul wrote many of his letters while he was in prison, while he was being persecuted, or while he was on dangerous missionary journeys.
It’s easier to thank God in peaceful moments, such as in a church service or when we are around a big table of food with our loved ones. But it’s much harder to thank God in those everyday moments when we feel bored, overwhelmed, lonely, or hopeless. Yet Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
With the help of the Holy Spirit, try putting Paul’s example into practice in your life:
- When you are feeling overwhelmed or discouraged today, pause and think of one thing you can thank God for. Try this with your children after they’ve had a rough day too!
- Make a list of Christian brothers and sisters who encourage you in hard times. Thank God for each of them.
- Read Romans 8:38–39 and thank God that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus.
Download the Everyday Faith Calendar to learn more about what Scripture teaches us about thanking God. You will find thirty short Bible readings and prayer prompts for each day.