Thankfulness

by Jonathan Hamilton

Thankfulness. What a boring topic to the modern mind. Merely by naming this wordular amalgamation after so ugly a stepchild, I’ve destined it to the wasteland of single digit readership.

And yet, I cannot help myself. It is to this topic of thankfulness that my mind and heart have been drawn back again and again recently. For years I have heard good Christian men and women point to thankfulness as a primary virtue — and to ungratefulness as a particularly heinous vice — and though I’ve given some sort of mealy milquetoast mental assent to the idea, I’ve never understood why it’s such a big deal. That is finally starting to change.

The first real percolations began as I pondered Romans 1 a few times this past year. Why does unthankfulness make the cut in this who’s who chapter of famous evils? It’s not even sprinkled in somewhere down the line. This sin is in the header list of vices that kick starts the three-fold downward spiral — a demise sovereignly orchestrated by the God who thrice “gives them over” to a lower circle of wickedness. Read for yourself:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (ESV)

These verses teach that unthankfulness is a desperately wicked act (or lack of action), for thankfulness is the expected response from every man to the God who created him. They know him. Oh, they know him. And yet, though he has made himself plainly known to them, they deny him. They do not honor him. They do not thank him. This is what pagans do. This is what atheists do. This is not what Christians do! No, nor can it be, for God expects a thankful response at minimum even from the heathen. How much more is expected of the redeemed ones when it comes to thankful hearts! The wicked have been given a great gift in the general revelation of the eternal God, and thankfulness is required. How much more we have been given in the special revelation of Jesus Christ our Lord through the holy Scriptures, and oh, how much more will be required of us!

1 Corinthians 10:13 is the famous text that tells us,  “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is not a passage we often think of in terms of thankfulness. But how in the world are we to meaningfully glorify God in such common tasks of life as eating and drinking? I wonder if at least a part of the answer to that question lies in thankfulness. When we are grateful for God’s faithful, daily provision of even the fuel that keeps us alive, he is glorified (and food and drink are far more glorious and “good” than mere fuel, see Gen 1).

A lack of thankfulness makes a damning case against Christian claims. Let us be thankful, and in this way prove ourselves to be sons and daughters of God.

“The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank.” —perhaps G.K. Chesterton, perhaps Dante Rossetti

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”—G. K. Chesterton

“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?”—G. K. Chesterton

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