Psalm 100:4 states, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” But have you ever stopped to wonder why giving thanks is so important? Have you ever considered the impact that having a thankful heart can have?
When I was a senior in high school, my mamaw tirelessly reminded me to write thank-you notes to everyone who had given me a graduation gift. I had no interest in doing so, nor did I fully understand the value and impact that a simple thank-you can have on the lives of others, as well as my own heart. It took me many years to realize my mamaw wasn’t just trying to teach me etiquette but the biblical truth that a thankful heart can make a difference in the world around us.
A Story of Thanklessness Instead of Thankfulness
Israel, God’s chosen people, witnessed firsthand several amazing miracles from the Lord when He delivered them out of Egypt. However, right after, they chose not to trust God when it was time to take the promised land. As a result, they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years. But God, in His great compassion and care, continued to provide for them in miraculous ways. He sent down food from Heaven, made their clothes and shoes never to wear out, and brought timely victories over their enemies.
You would think that after all those years of seeing God’s grace and kindness, Israel would be the most grateful and thankful people in the entire world, right?
Instead, what we find is a people who did not thank God, nor were they grateful for all the things He had done. In place of thanking God, they treated Him with contempt publicly. Rather than a chorus of praise, they grumbled and complained against Him. They were not delighting in God but discontented with His presence and provisions. This newfound nation was marked by entitlement and known for its unbelief, which led to much heartache and loss.
This begs the question: If a thankless heart seems to spread quickly and infect others, what kind of impact a thankful heart could make in our lives?
Why Giving Thanks to God and Others Is Important
“Thank you” might not seem like the most profound and impactful phrase, but its presence or absence can change the mood in a room full of people. It’s one of the first things parents teach their children to say, and it’s something we long to hear for a job well done. But on top of that, it is one of the most repeated commands in the scripture.
The Psalmist encourages us to “give thanks” to the Lord almost forty times and often compels us to come into God’s presence with thanksgiving in our hearts. Difficult circumstances or life-threatening dangers were not meant to be a deterrent to celebrating the nature and character of God with a grateful heart. Choosing to give thanks doesn’t change our circumstances but can quickly change our perspective on them.
The apostle Paul, in his letters, tells us to be thankful nearly fifty times. He seems to make it a practice of letting others know that he is continually thanking God for them. He urges the Thessalonians to be thankful in all circumstances, for it is God’s will for your life in Christ Jesus. He tells the church in Philippi that their prayers were to be seasoned with thanksgiving to God and that when we do everything without grumbling, namely, with a thankful heart, it’s a message so bright and loud that the world can’t help but see and hear how great our God is.
We find Jesus giving thanks on many occasions:
- When grieving at the grave of Lazarus
- In times of need, when feeding a multitude of people
- When preaching to the crowds
- While instituting the Lord’s supper
Why does this idea of having a thankful heart seem to be foundational in the Bible and so important to God?
What Happens When You Have a Thankless Heart vs. a Thankful Heart
Romans 1:21 says that “although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give THANKS to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
When we don’t acknowledge or give God thanks, it hardens our hearts and leads us to put ourselves, our wants, our desires, and our abilities in the place of God. It shuts our Bibles to a watching world and hardens our hearts to the truth of God.
However, it’s important to look at the other side…
If Israel’s rebellion and ingratitude led to the downfall of many, then it stands to reason that a thankful heart can commend the truth and praise of God to another generation. When we give our thanks to God for everything He has given us, for the purpose he has bestowed upon each of us, we can share our gratitude to Him with others. And as a result, we encourage others to adopt a thankful heart as well.
Demonstrate Your Thankful Heart to God
Have you thanked God today from the heart? I mean really told Him how much you love and appreciate Him?
He woke you up and gave you clothes, food to eat, and air to breathe. He made the sun shine, and the rain fall on you, whether you love Him or not. He sent His one and only son, Jesus Christ, to take your place on the cross, and He is alive today and wants to grow in a real relationship with you.
What great gifts! What a great God!
Perhaps, we spend our time thinking we deserve all this, or we try to figure out ways to repay Him. But practicing praise and thanksgiving is one of the ways we can keep our hearts on fire for Jesus. As a teenager, my mamaw tried to instill in me the importance of a thankful heart, recognizing the gifts God so generously bestows on His children. Maybe, all that is really needed today is a simple “THANK YOU, LORD!”