The Power of Thanks and Giving

“You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35  NLT)

Life is a cyclical journey, and we live our lives with a beginning and an end.  There is a beginning and an end to our days, to our moments and in this instance our years.  Many people begin each year by creating a guidebook, a list of firm resolutions that will help them live out a better year. Most of us end our year by sitting around tables eating what the retail industry deems is the biggest meal of the year – Thanksgiving.  

It’s poetic in some way that we reflect on the year we have had by giving thanks to God and celebrating everything He has blessed us with.  

Science tells us that Thanksgiving promotes a healthy well-being because of routine.  Psychology tells us that listing out what you are thankful for helps our mental well-being.  Research suggests that the ritual of Thanksgiving plays a huge part of our emotional connection to our family and the experts cite the power of routine.  While that might be true, I believe there is a deeper reason why our mental and emotional well-being is promoted through gratefulness around a table with people we love.

I want us to step back and think about the heart of Thanksgiving.

First, God created us for connection.  1 John 4:7 describes God as inherently love.  Love comes from God.  If God is LOVE and authentic love only occurs in a relationship – God has created us to exist in relationships so that we can experience that love. 

While our emotional connection to our family could, psychologically, be perpetuated by routine; foundationally, that need for emotional connection was created in us by God.  Genesis 2:18It is not good for man to be alone

We are meant to come together and create connections.  Our life should be marked as a life of love and fellowship. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up."  

I could cite many verses throughout scripture where God calls us to fellowship with others.  We are not meant to do life alone.  We are created for connection with others and when we have connection with others our whole-body benefits.

Second, thankfulness is a spiritual prescription from God. Thankfulness is a concept used almost 200 times throughout scripture. Did you know that in 1 Thes (5:18) the Bible states that thankfulness is actually God’s will for our lives?

The intentional act of showing thankfulness is identifying that we are not in control. It’s literally putting our hearts in a posture of humility so that our faith is strengthened.

You see, when God commands us to give thanks, He is taking our attention off of life-draining circumstances and placing our minds and hearts (Col 3:2) on things that will fuel our faith and give all of the glory to God. (Col 3:17) All of this, ultimately, drives true joy, hope, and contentment in our lives.

Science makes a compelling argument that carnal gratitude benefits our mental well-being, but when that hypothesis is layered with scripture – it gives more weight to the importance of being thankful.  It’s not just a prescription from the doctor, it’s a prescription from God.

Third, God created us to join Him at the table.  If you haven’t picked up a copy of my new cookbook, The Living Table, or read anything from my blog, this concept of the table being central to a healthy life may be new to you.  While yes, science proves that coming to the table fosters an improvement in mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, it’s only through God’s powerful work at the table that we are drawn to this piece of furniture.

When Jesus was doing ministry, He didn’t just preach from a pulpit, he also dined at tables with people.  He used food to bring them together, to connect, give thanks and to love.
 

In Exodus 25, God is teaching the first humans to build furniture.  He starts with the Ark of the Covenant and following that was the table.  The significance is not lost on me that there is true power in the table if it is the second thing that God instructs man to make behind the Ark. 

God wanted us to recognize He will be first; but following that He wants to sit with us at a table.  It could have been an altar or a pew or a bench or a chair, but it was a table.  There is divine power when we sit at the table.

Consider this: What if Thanksgiving wasn’t just a day, but a way of life?

“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)

What if we change the narrative that our culture has given us?  What if we focused on ways to show gratitude every single day, in every moment of life, and not just the third Thursday of November?

This might be counter-cultural, but what if we put the ‘giving’ back in Thanks[giving]?  Think about it, maybe this year instead of a meal with Friends for Friendsgiving – you give back to your friends in thanks for the blessing of their friendship.  You drop a box of cookies or a loaf of bread off at their house with a heartfelt note.

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to only be marked with a 12-pound turkey and sweet potato casserole. What if we started showing thanks on January 1st and continued throughout every day of the year?

By living in this constant state of gratitude and giving, I believe our hearts will be more open, our tables will be more often surrounded with people, and our homes will be marked with even more moments of showing God’s love to others.

God created us for community. He commands us to give thanks and invites us to join him at the table. Thanksgiving is important, not just as an isolated dinner once a year, but as a way of life. Starting now, let’s focus on coming together with others around a table to proclaim God’s providence and blessing over our lives every day of the year.

With full tables, full plates, and full hearts, may this be the beginning of daily moments of thankfulness and giving, and may a desire be stirred in your heart to serve others with gratitude every day.

Looking for more ideas on how to live with a heart of hospitality this season? Check out our entire selection of hospitality articles in our devotional library. You can also learn more about how to gather in love this season here.