What is Thankfulness?
The dictionary defines thankful as: aware and appreciative of a benefit. It defines appreciation as:
recognition of the quality, value, significance, or magnitude of people and things.
A scriptural definition of thankfulness is: aligning one’s life according to a true measure of the value to God of people and things.
Thankfulness should not be grounded in selfishness. In other words, it should not be based on the our perception of a benefit something or someone else provides to us. Rather, it should be based on the value God places on the person or thing. God doesn’t value based on benefit to him. He places value based on the benefit a person or thing provides to others.
God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
When we are thankful we contribute a benefit to others. When we are unthankful we take away from others.
Correctly Measuring Value
Because of the benefit to us of thankfulness Satan works to cause us to be unthankful rather than thankful. In fact:
One way to discern the value of a thing is by observing how intensely Satan works to withhold that thing in our lives.
Taking note of the degree to which we incorrectly measure value reveals a lot about the value of thankfulness. We have a strong tendency to underestimate the benefit of things provide us. Chief among these is the Bible (the word of God), the Holy Spirit, truth, God’s ways vs our ways, eternal things vs temporal things, what we hear, and thankfulness itself. Besides these we see these tendency to underestimate throughout our lives. We underestimate the value of food, water, directions (compass, map, GPS), proper clothing (armor of God), risks/danger, etc.. We hear many stories of those who have died as a result of underestimating the value of these things.
If we so underestimate the value of temporal things we see and benefit us in our temporal lives, how much more do we underestimate the value of eternal things and their benefit to our eternal lives? The least eternal thing is of infinitely greater value than the most valuable temporal thing.
If we so underestimate the value of people and things to us personally, how much more do we underestimate their value to God and others?
Aligning Our Lives According to True Value
We automatically align our lives according to the value with which we measure.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Like 12:34)
We seek that which we measure of value. We think on those things. We are value-minded. We attend to and focus on that which we value. We love it and guard it.
We love in degree of thankfulness. We do not love that for which we are not thankful. If we are not thankful for our brother who we see, how can we be thankful for God who we have not seen? If we are not thankful for and love the least of these our brethren, how can we be thankful for Jesus?
Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40)
The value we place on the least of these our brothers is the value we place on Jesus. We are not one bit more thankful for Jesus than we are for the least of these our brothers. We do not love Jesus one bit more than them.
We guard according to the measure of value we use. We sow the word of God into our hearts and guard it according to the value we place on it. Satan would have us underestimate the value and under-sow and under-guard it. Satan would have us underestimate the value of truth, not seek God to send his Spirit of truth to guide us into truth, and not follow him when he does. When we do that we are both unthankful and unloving.
We tend to reject or dismiss that for which we are not thankful. When the eye says to the hand “I have no need of you” the eye is underestimating the value of the hand to itself and to God.
What Is the Result of Thanksgiving?
Thankfulness has many benefits to us. It is a key in prayer and it is a key in avoiding sin.
Thankfulness works in prayer to help us to receive.
Consider carefully what you hear. With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. (Mark 4:24)
If we measure according to truth it will be measured back according to truth. If we are thankful we will be given more. If we are unthankful what we have will be taken from us.
Thankfulness works to help us avoid sin.
Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God neither were thankful, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. They became filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:21, 29-32)
Thanks be to God that the opposite happens when we are thankful. Our hearts are enlightened. We become filled with righteousness, love, and faithfulness. We invent ways of doing good, are obedient, full of wisdom and knowledge, full of faith, and full of gentleness. We continue in doing those things that please God and approve of those who do the same. This helps us avoid sin and helps us in prayer.
How Do We Become More Thankful?
We don’t become thankful by just deciding to be thankful - although that is a start. Thankfulness is a fruit of the word and Spirit of God. We become more thankful as we sow the word of God into our hearts and guard it. We become more thankful as we ask God to send his Spirit of truth to guide us and lead us into perceiving the truth of value and of thankfulness. If we value thankfulness, and we should, then we will align our lives to love and seek that which will produce it in our lives.