Thanksgiving always strikes me as something I ought to do, but not something that blesses me. I ought to be thankful for the spiritual blessings that God has poured out on me in Christ. I ought to be thankful for the material blessing God gives to me each and every day. But would my Christian growth and discipleship really look all that different if I didn’t cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving?
First of all, thanksgiving will always be a fruit of the gospel’s work in our lives. If we really and truly grasp what God has done for us through Jesus, it will inevitably well up in our hearts and overflow in thankfulness. It has to. A lack of thankfulness in a person’s life must question the genuine nature of that person’s gospel transformation. How can it not? We will never be as thankful as we ought to be. But if we are never thankful we do need to be concerned that the gospel has yet to penetrate the hardness of our hearts.
So thankfulness is inevitable as the gospel transforms us. But thankfulness is also a powerful tool by which God works in us by his Spirit. Thanksgiving is not only expected, it is transformative.
One way that thanksgiving transforms us is in contentment. This is an area that I certainly need to grow in, and I suspect many, if not most, of us in the western world need too. We live in a society and culture of discontentment. Discontent comes from a continual need and desire for more. More money, more possessions, more status, more wealth, more stuff. Discontentment is always on the look out for ‘what’s next’ or ‘what more?’ Since it’s the air we breathe in a capitalism economy, it needs a powerful force to break it. That force is thankfulness.
You see, thankfulness breaks the cycle of discontentment by focusing our attention of what we have. We no longer look to what we can get, but at what has been given. Thankfulness helps us to stop and see the beauty of what we already have, and it moves our heart and mind back to the one who have given it. It’s very hard to be discontent while at the same time rejoicing in what we have here in front of us. Discontentment is finally broken by the force of thanksgiving.