Giving can only be done toward somebody else. We can give gifts to friends and taxes to Caesar, but to whom do we give our thanks? We can certainly start with our parents. They, after all, gave us life, protection, nourishment, upbringing and, most of all, love. Giving thanks to parents, brothers and sisters for the love that they have given us makes Thanksgiving Day a holiday about family.
Still, when we gather as a family to share a meal, to whom does the family give thanks? Who gave your parents life, protection, nourishment, upbringing and love? Nobody answers with endless genealogical lines. We know instinctively that it is about God, “the Father from whom every family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:14-15).
So, Thanksgiving Day is about giving thanks to God, our Creator. We give thanks to Him because life is good, and I mean that in the most basic sense possible. Despite the evil in the world and all the pain that we have experienced, despite of the inevitability of our own death, we know unshakably that to be alive is better than to not be alive.
And the living existence that we have came from God. In his love He considered whether to give you life or not, and He chose the better thing for you. He didn’t have to do it. You hadn’t done anything to earn life. How could you? You didn’t even exist! He gave you your life and existence as a gift, by grace.
In the very first interaction you ever had with God, you were on the receiving end of the greatest gift ever. We give thanks to Him because He first gave life to us, and He continues to give it and everything you need to support, protect, and save it from death.
His initial gift of life is matched by His continual giving of rain and sunshine, harvest and springtime and absolutely everything that is needed to support your body and life. And since, due to evil and sin, your life is inevitably marching towards death, He even gives you the free gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, to rescue you from sin, death and the devil and to keep you alive forever.
It’s for all of this that we give thanks. Our thanks doesn’t pay Him back. We can’t. It simply acknowledges these two things: Life is good, and God gives it to you.
But how can you give thanks? Is it simply a matter of setting aside one day a year? Of course not. It is not even covered by saying the words “thank you” a thousand times a day. The only real way to give thanks is to appreciatively receive what you are given.
When you’re at Grandma’s house on Thanksgiving Day and you want to thank her for the meal, you won’t simply send her a nice card and head out to McDonald’s. You will skip the card and sit down at the table. It makes Grandma happy to see you enjoying what she gives you.
The same is true of God. He who loves your life so much that He decided from all eternity to give it to you also wants you to enjoy it for all eternity. He is pleased to see you appreciate the value of your life. He is delighted when receive the suffering and death of His only-begotten Son who preserves your life forever.
The best way to thank God this Thursday, and every day, is to ask and receive from Him every good and gracious gift that He desires to give you.