Over the last couple of weeks as I prepared to lead the last chapters of the Book of Hebrews, I realized that it was a perfect time to study them because both chapters mention thanksgiving. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Him, then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” And Hebrews 12:28 says, “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe”.
While pondering them to teach them and also to apply them personally to Thanksgiving, I was struck by how Hebrews 12:28 expresses the idea of thanksgiving. It’s not how we typically think of it. Here are the verses that usually come to mind when I think about thanksgiving:
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Psalm 107:1 – “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
But Hebrews 12:28 says “show gratitude”. A very different thing from verbally giving thanks.
Of course, verbally giving thanks to God isn’t something to take lightly. It’s an amazing way to change my attitude, to focus on God’s goodness to me, and to demonstrate faith in thanking Him for things that I struggle with being thankful for because they are hard.
But showing gratitude costs me something. It involves a life surrendered to Christ – one that is obedient to Him. At different times, it will involve giving of my time, my money, and myself to others. It will mean moving from a self-centered life (one that my flesh gravitates towards) to living a Christ-centered and others-centered life.
What does showing gratitude involve? “An acceptable (or pleasing) service with reverence and awe.” The author gives us some ideas in Chapter 13 about what that service looks like:
- Loving other believers (13:1)
- Showing hospitality to strangers (13:2)
- Remembering those who are being persecuted for their faith (13:3)
- Honoring marriage through sexual purity (13:4)
- Being content with what you have (13:5)
- Remembering those who led you and imitating their faith (13:7)
- Not being carried away by strange teachings (13:9)
- Doing good and sharing (13:16)
- Submitting to your leaders (13:17)
Not an exhaustive list, of course, but quite a start!
Not only can we show gratitude towards God with service, but we can also do that with others. For example, at this stage of my life, I can show gratitude to my parents for all they have done for me by helping them now that they are older. What things serve my husband in a way that he knows how thankful I am for him and for what he does for me? How can I show gratitude to a co-worker who helped me out or who did a great job on a project? I always appreciate someone thanking me for something and never take it for granted, but someone actually showing me their gratitude just blesses me that much more.
So this Thanksgiving – give thanks! Thanks to God and to others. Do it heartily and joyfully and reverently. But let’s also find ways to show gratitude for all that has been given to us.