When we hear the word gratitude the image that comes to mind is someone showing appreciation to another person or being grateful for what they have. Many of us were taught at an early age to “mind our manners” and a lot of that was remembering to say thanks. As we got older, we are constantly reminded that we need to have a gratitude attitude, should practice gratitude daily or keep a daily gratitude list. These are useful habits but do we really know what the Bible says about gratitude? As we study gratitude in the Bible, we quickly realize that it is almost exclusively offered to God.
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What is Thankfulness in the Bible?
You may find it interesting to note that the word gratitude doesn’t appear a single time in the King James Version and only makes cursory appearances in other translations. But the idea of thankfulness and thanksgiving is a theme in Scripture and is evident from Genesis to Revelation.
In the Old Testament, thanksgiving was tied to the sacrificial system and was used to refer to the offerings made to the Lord (Leviticus 7:12, 22:29). At other times, thanksgiving referred to giving praise and glory to God (1 Chronicles 16:34, Ezra 3:11).
In the New Testament, it’s mostly used in reference to giving thanks to God (Luke 2:38, 2 Corinthians 2:14).
Reasons to be Thankful to God
Depending on what’s going on in your life, you may struggle to come up with reasons to be thankful to God. It is, therefore, necessary for us to understand what the Bible says about gratitude. For those days when you are struggling to express gratitude, I encourage you to read Psalm 103 as it gives us a concise list we can use as our daily gratitude list.
- Our sins are forgiven (verse 3).
- We receive healing from disease (verse 3).
- God has redeemed us and saved us from destruction (verse 4).
- We have received God’s favor (verse 4).
- When we are oppressed, God gives us justice(verse 6).
- God is merciful towards His children (verse 11).
We can be thankful to God because our sins are forgiven and His grace is sufficient to cover all our failings.
What the Bible Says About Gratitude
Because gratitude is a recurring biblical theme, there are many verses that reference thankfulness or praise. Let’s look at some of the principles we can learn about being grateful.
Rejoice regardless of our circumstances.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV).
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).
Be thankful for each new day.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Be thankful for the people in our lives.
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, (Ephesians 1:16).
Be joyful in God’s presence.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 100:1-5).
Be grateful because God is good and He gives good gifts.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (1 Chronicles 16:34)
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17).
Be thankful for the gift of Jesus’ death on our behalf.
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
As you study what the Bible says about gratitude, you may get the impression that gratitude has a smell. Even more important, thankfulness should have an impact on every believer’s life.
What Does It Mean to Have a Thankful Heart?
That Bible teaches that we should have a thankful heart, but what exactly does that mean? Colossians 3:16 gives us a simple blueprint for a thankful heart:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
A thankful heart is one that is eager to give praise to God. We achieve a gratitude attitude as we meditate on God’s word and serve in the body of Christ.
Learn How to Be Grateful from Jesus
When we study what the Bible says about gratitude, we must spend some time studying the life of Christ. As Christians, we have no greater example than that of Jesus. By examining His life, we find additional reasons to be thankful to God.
Show gratitude when prayers are answered. When Jesus went to the tomb of his friend Lazarus, he said these words after they had rolled away the stone.
“Father, I thank you that you have heard me” (John 11:41).
The beautiful thing about this prayer was that it was done before Lazarus rose from the dead. The lesson for us is that we should thank God for the answer to our prayers even before we receive it.
Thank God when He reveals something to you.
As we spend time studying our Bibles and serving our brothers and sisters in Christ, the Holy Spirit will reveal things to us. These revelations are for our benefit and we should express our gratitude when we get them.
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; (Matthew 11:25).
Be thankful for the food God provides. We may not always have everything we want, but we should express our gratitude for what He provides (even if that means we sometimes have to praise Him in advance).
He took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds (Matthew 15:36).
I hope this post helped to understand more about what the Bible says about gratitude. As followers of Christ, our gratitude serves as a testimony to others of the wonderful things God has done for us. Even more important, our praise testifies that God is worthy to be praised. When we have a heart of gratitude, we develop a habit of thanking God for everything and that, my friend, is exactly what God wants.
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