A Culture of Thanksgiving

We are living in a world where self and selfishness has taken center stage. Mankind would rather look to themselves for answers rather than look to God, not realizing that all good things come from God. As the Source of everything good and wonderful, it is incumbent upon all of us to ascribe thanksgiving and praise to God for all His blessings.

The book of Psalms is replete with expressions of praise and thanksgiving. David recognized that, had it not been for the Lord, how desperately his life would have ended! So he declared; “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”—Psalm 107:31. David developed a “culture of thanksgiving.”

On the last Thursday in the month of November, across these United States, a large percentage of the population celebrates Thanksgiving as a day to reflect and show appreciation to God. Some historians trace this celebration back to the Pilgrims who, in 1621, with the Wampanoag Indians, “Shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November”—History of Thanksgiving, history.com.

There are other historians who believe that the origins of Thanksgiving date back even earlier than 1621. “Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking, long before Europeans set foot on their shores”—History of Thanksgiving, history.com.

Whatever is the history of Thanksgiving, whoever is responsible for its origin, not just this nation, but all the people of the world, should be thankful to the Lord, who is God of all the universe. It is He who has created us, it is He who has sustained us, it is He who has redeemed us, and it is He who is coming again to rescue us from the furious wrath of the enemy of our souls.

Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, said, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”—1 Thessalonians 5:18, NKJV. Our families—individual and church—need to develop a “culture of thanksgiving” that will impact our lives on a daily basis. To the extent that, whatever state we find ourselves in, we can still give thanks to God knowing that He will never leave us nor forsake us when we put our trust in Him.

Ellen White has said it beautifully: “We need to praise God more ‘for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men.’ Psalm 107:8. Our devotional exercises should not consist wholly in asking and receiving. Let us not be always thinking of our wants and never of the benefits we receive. We do not pray any too much, but we are too sparing of giving thanks. We are the constant recipients of God’s mercies, and yet how little gratitude we express, how little we praise Him for what He has done for us”—Steps to Christ, p. 102.

Let us give thanks to God for all His mercies and His benefits toward us. The evidences are clear that He has done marvelous things for us, and we are to be thankful as a way of life. The Psalmist declared, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever”—Psalms 107:1, NKJV.

G. Earl Knight is president of the Atlantic Union Conference and chairman of the Atlantic Union College Board of Trustees.