There's an old legend that two angels were sent from heaven to earth on special errands. One angel was to pick up all the petitions from earth and bring them to heaven. The other was to pick up all the thanksgivings. Thepetitions were so many and so heavy that the first angel had to make three trips back and forth between heaven and earth. The second angel had to scour the earth in order to find even a mere handful of thanksgivings.
Legends, of course, usually are very extraordinary; but this one is much too accurate for comfort. As Christians, we are long on request. In fact, too often we sound like Old MacDonald with "a give me, give me here and a give me, give me there. . . everywhere a give me, give me." But we are terribly short on our thanksgiving.
About the only time we give thanks is on Thanksgiving day or when we gather around a dinner table and give thanks to God for the food we are about to enjoy. Some families call it "saying the blessing." Others call it, "saying grace." Interestingly each expression captures one aspect of theBiblical concept of thanks.
The Old Testament idea of giving thanks was akin to the word "blessing." The Hebrew language had no word that meant exclusively "to thank." When one man thanked another, he "blessed" (berek). When God was thanked for a meal, the blessing was pronounced. It usually started with the words, "Blessed art thou O God, king of heaven and earth." The idea was to bless (praise, thank) God for the food one was about to eat, not confer some magical property to it.
So, if you call the thanksgiving prayer "the blessing," you are mirroring theOld Testament concept of thanks. However, if you call it "grace," you have captured the New Testament concept.
In the New Testament, the Greek word for grace is "charis." The Spanish language still maintains this close relationship between thanks and grace ("gracias").
On the giving end, grace means to make someone glad by a special gift. On the receiving end, grace means to be grateful, thankful and appreciative. Of course, grace from God should cause us to be so appreciative that we give grace (thanks) back to God in return.
According to the Bible, thankfulness is not optional. Sadly there have been many who "knew God, but did not honor Him as God or give thanks." (Romans 1:21) Let's not forget what the Apostle Paul told Timothy, "Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude." Thankfulness places us at the very center of God's will: "In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (I Thessalonians 5:18)
As we approach this Thanksgiving season, let's not forget that Thanksgiving may be one day each year, but the giving of thanks should be every day all year!