What does it mean to give thanks? In some way, shape, or form this is a question that many of us will be looking at and trying to answer, or ignoring this month. There are times when I have fallen into the later category when it comes to the Thanksgiving holiday. Why have a special day to give thanks when it is something that we should be doing all the time? While there’s a nugget of truth to my hard-hearted statement, I don’t think my former argument holds much water. It is immensely important to have a special day to take time and reflect upon, and celebrate all there is to be thankful for.
I know that for some, Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday that is looked forward to and celebrated with great joy, while for others it is not. It is no secret that in our world there are those who have much and those who have practically nothing. There are some who are rich in possessions and some who own nothing at all. There are some whose bank accounts are full, and others who pray each month that they can make their paycheck stretch until the next one comes in. There are people who have a loving family and there are people who do not have family and there are also people whose families are unloving and destructive. When we enter into the season of Thanksgiving, we enter into this reality that surrounds us. How do we give thanks when sometimes, there seems to be little to be thankful for?
It is no secret that the people of Israel went through some extremely difficult times. Zechariah chapter 8 holds a prophetic promise to the people of Israel, a remnant, the only ones who are left and faithful after years of war and famine. The prophet speaks to these people when they are at their lowest and tells them of God’s promise to them,
“But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the LORD of hosts. For there shall be a sowing of peace; the vine shall yield its fruit, the ground shall give its produce, and the skies shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. Just as you have been a cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you and you shall be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.”
I think there are a few things to learn about giving thanks in this passage. First, there is always a reason to have hope, even in the darkest of days. You are not abandoned by God. If it seems this world has left you, and there is nothing in this world for you; there is always One who remains faithful, and that is God. He is the one who walks alongside of us through “the valley of the shadow of death.” Have hope, God is with you, and there will come days again when all shall be well. Give Thanks! Second, God is faithful to his promises and covenants, and He has saved us. We have every reason to celebrate in that! We have seen God’s goodness and faithfulness given to us through Jesus Christ. We are heirs to His salvation, and that is the greatest gift and blessing any one of us can ever receive. Give Thanks! Finally, when we are blessed, it is not just for our own sake. The Lord says through Zechariah to the remnant, “So I will save you and you shall be a blessing.” We are blessed to be a blessing to others. When the days are good and all is well, give thanks. If you don’t give thanks, how will you count those blessings? If you don’t give thanks, how will you know exactly how much you have been blessed? If you don’t give thanks, how can you bless others as God intends for us to do?
What does it mean to give thanks? We have all been blessed by God, and it is good and appropriate to take stock of those blessings and thank God for them. No matter what those blessings are; blessings of salvation, blessings of family, blessings of wealth, or blessings of hope. What are your blessings? Give thanks for them, and then share your blessings. God has been good to us, let us then, as God’s people, be blessings to others in the same way God through Christ has been a blessing to us.