I love the fact that in the United States we as a nation set aside one day a year simply for giving thanks to God for his good gifts. At some of our tables, we will take a few minutes before we eat to mention the things that we are thankful for: a new job, a delectable Thanksgiving meal, or a loving spouse. This is all good and proper. We should take every opportunity to thank God for his particular gifts.
But have you ever thought about the fact that thanksgiving is one way of describing the entire Christian life? This is not an exaggeration. One powerful and entirely biblical way to think of the Christian life is simply this: God showed us grace, and our response to that grace should be a life lived out of gratitude. The Apostle Paul put it like this: “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” (Col 3:17).
The manner in which we serve others illustrates the point well. Christian service isn’t simply deciding to serve, and then “gritting out” our service. We serve in conscious awareness of the lavish grace we have received from God! God looked upon us, criminals (“sinners”) that we were, and chose to send Jesus to die in our place. As a response, we sacrificially serve others because of of the unbounded grace we have received.
The sinful woman who poured expensive ointment on Jesus’s feet and wiped his feet with her hair illustrates the relationship between thankfulness and its lived-out relationship to the actions of one who has been forgiven much. When Simon the Pharisee complained (in his own head) that Jesus shouldn’t have allowed a sinful woman to act in such a way, Jesus challenged those thoughts with “he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). But the woman at Jesus’s feet knew how much she had been forgiven, allowed that grace to move her heart toward gratitude, and the result was an extravagant act of thankful service to Jesus.
Perhaps this Thanksgiving we can move beyond listing out individual things that we are thankful for, and start to respond more deeply to the grace God has demonstrated through the sacrificial death of Jesus—and how such thankful reflection might work its way into the way we live the year ahead. A whole life lived out of thankfulness is the right and proper way to respond to God’s lavish gift of grace through Christ.