One of our primary purposes as God’s image bearers is to give thanks. He made us to be creatures who are dependent on His all-sufficiency and grace, who will respond to His grace with praise and thanksgiving. In fact, Paul says in Romans 1:21 that the reason the whole human race is under God’s judgment is because “although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to him.”
We glorify God by giving thanks. Psalm 69:30 “I will praise the name of God with a song, I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.” God is worthy of our thanksgiving “for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36). Since God is worthy of our thanksgiving, we are commanded to give thanks over and over again in Scripture. Psalm 100:4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” Therefore it is the duty of man to give thanks to our Creator. To not give thanks is to sin and to deserve God’s wrath (Rom 1:18-21).
But giving thanks is more than just a duty. It is designed to be for our ultimate joy! You can see the connection between joy and thanksgiving in many Scriptures.
“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” (Psalm 95:2).
“Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!” (Psalm 97:12).
“Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” (Psalm 107:22).
Surely there is joy in our thanksgiving when we consider all that He has done for us. As sinners deserving of eternal hell, God has shown amazing grace in the salvation and forgiveness He has wrought through the death of His own Son in our place. The gospel gives us infinite reasons to rejoice and give thanks.
The connection between our joy and our thanksgiving is also seen in how often thanksgiving is connected with praise.
“I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you” (Psalm 35:18).
“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30).
"Then one of [the ten lepers], when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks” (Luke 17:15–16).
Thanksgiving helps us see and praise who God is. And God is our ultimate joy and prize! We are not just called to thank Him for what He has done, but it is meant to lead us to praise Him for who He is in all of His glorious character. When we ponder what He has done with thankfulness, it enlightens our hearts to see more of God’s own attributes so that we rejoice in who He is and give Him praise.
Which means thanksgiving is more than lip service, it must be from the heart. It must be thanks-feeling too. It must be heart level gratitude and joy, not just head level duty and willpower. This heart level joy and gratitude is a work of the Holy Spirit in us as we meditate on all that God is for us in Christ Jesus. That is why we pray and ask the Spirit to produce this fruit of true thanksgiving in hearts of worship.
In the words of Paul in Colossians 3:16–17 “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. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Thankful in all circumstances,