Thanksgiving has been a great holiday for the church to spread the message of Christ. After all, the feast between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans was to give thanks to God for his provisions. The stated purpose of the Thanksgiving holiday was to thank “our beneficial Father.” But has our approach to Thanksgiving been lost somewhere between the stuffing and the cranberry sauce? Is there a way to find a Biblical model for Thanksgiving?
A search of the scripture yields four important principles that are contained in a Biblical model for Thanksgiving. These four principles are by no means a complete list, but they stand as a good beginning to enjoying a Biblical Thanksgiving.
A Biblical Model For Thanksgiving Includes Sacrifice
Why has the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday dwindled down to overeating and watching football? The sacrifices that were made to create this holiday happened long ago. We are remembering someone else’s sacrifice and its impact is mostly lost on us. To make a true day of thankfulness to “our beneficial Father” we must focus our own sacrifice. The Old Testament illustrates this principle about Thanksgiving.
If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, or cakes of blended flour mixed with oil. Besides the cakes, as his offering he shall offer leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offering. And from it he shall offer one cake from each offering as a heave offering to the Lord. It shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the peace offering. — Leviticus 7:12-14 (NKJV)
Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; For this you love, You children of Israel!” Says the Lord God. — Amos 4:5 (NKJV)
But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” — Jonah 2:9
To give thanks to God always required some sort of sacrifice. In many cases that meant the sacrifice of animals. In other cases, sacrifice included being willing to proclaim the good news. To Jonah, Thanksgiving meant a commitment to pay his debts. Though the vehicle was different, the principle remained the same. To offer thanks meant some sort of personal sacrifice. Nowhere in the scripture is this better modeled than through David.
Araunah said to David, “Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this.” But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” — 1 Chronicles 21:23-24 (NIV)
What Has Thankgiving Cost You?
As we give thanks to the Lord on the day set aside for national thanksgiving, take time to reflect on your own personal sacrifice to the Lord. What has thanksgiving cost you? What blessings have you received as a result of your sacrifice? The sacrifice may have been time, talents, treasures, or relationships, but a Biblical Model For Thanksgiving is one that has counted the cost for discipleship. Then it matches the cost with God’s blessed rewards.
I am bound by Your promise, O God.
My life is my offering of thanksgiving to You
Psalm 56:12 (The Voice)
A Biblical Model For Thanksgiving Includes Reflection
The next time you find yourself judging another, be quick to first examine your own heart and behavior. Weed out the sin you find there first. Let your example and guide be Jesus, who always demonstrated a pure and humble heart toward others. – A Jane Austin Devotional
We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. — 2 Corinthians 4:14-16 (NIV)
Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? — 1 Corinthians 10:16 (NIV)
In this workaholic, keep up or get trampled world there is precious little time for reflection. For centuries, Sunday was God’s day, a time to slow down. Not so in today’s world. The stores are open, kids sports have chosen Sunday as their time to schedule games. Professional sports call to us Sunday mornings, afternoons and evenings. All the jobs that must be done around the house, take away from our reflection on events that took place generations ago.
God wants us to understand the full impact of what He has done for us through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This is not just a momentary pause but a heartfelt understanding of what the sacrifice of God’s Son has done in our own life.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100:3-5 (NIV)
A Biblical Model For Thanksgiving Includes Prayer
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. — Ephesians 1:15-16 (NIV)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)
So, first and foremost, I urge God’s people to pray. They should make their requests, petitions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all humanity. — 1 Timothy 2:1 (The Voice)
Paul’s instruction to Timothy is powerful. Many consider prayer as their last hope. When they have tried all they know to do, the only thing that’s left is to plead with God. Paul says prayer is the first, and the foremost (most important) activity among God’s people. A sincere reflection of what God has done for us will call us to spend time in prayer with the Lord. Whether we pray alone, with family, or with the corporate body, prayer is the most important principle in a Biblical Model for Thanksgiving.
A Biblical Model For Thanksgiving Includes Songs of Rejoicing
But as for me, afflicted and in pain—
may your salvation, God, protect me.
I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hooves.
Psalm 69:29-31 (NIV)
Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. — Psalm 95:2 (NIV)
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; Sing praises on the harp to our God… — Psalm 147:7 (NKJV)
A family that invests in the first three principles will undoubtedly experience the final principle on their own. People are blessed with an innate desire to break into song when they are filled with joy. It is a natural outpouring of people who have spent time with the Lord in prayer. It is the fruit of those who focus on the blessings they have received from the Lord. Singing is a very large part of worship throughout the scripture. Praising God through music is also a central part of corporate worship services today. It should also be a part of our personal and our family worship time.
The translation of Psalm 107 quoted below is awesome. Like a volcano that builds pressure until its lava can’t be held back any longer, when God’s people spend time with the Lord, they invariably erupt from their inner being.
May they erupt with praise and give thanks to the Eternal
in honor of His loyal love And all the wonders He has performed for humankind!
Let them present to Him thanksgiving sacrifices
and tell stories of His great deeds through songs of joy.
Psalm 107:21-22 (The Voice)
Truly, we are very rich people—and what better time than the season of Thanksgiving to sit back and count our blessings. Sure, our hearts have been broken and our minds have been run through the wringer, but as Christians we have incredible wealth, bought for us at an unimaginable price. So how do we manage that wealth? We live joyously, sharing the good news wherever we go. I love the little verse that says, ‘Two eyes to look at God above, two hands to clasp in prayer, two feet to carry me to church—that’s why I’m a MILLIONAIRE! — Barbara Johnson in Daily Splashes of Joy