Every Thanksgiving I’m reminded of a passage of Scripture that’s likely familiar to you, although you might not associate it with Thanksgiving.
It’s not from Paul’s epistles, loaded with verses like “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).
Although the theme of thankfulness and gratitude is certainly there.
It’s not in the Psalms either, which is full of songs of praise and thanksgiving: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name!” (Ps. 100:4).
Although it’s definitely there, too.
And it’s not that classic Thanksgiving verse from 1 Chronicles that says “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever” (1 Chron. 16:34).
Bonus points if you sang that one.
The Bible is absolutely loaded with this theme of gratitude and thankfulness. The story that I think of is a sometimes forgotten story from the life of Jesus recorded in Luke 17:11-19. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem when he enters a village and encounters ten lepers. When the ten ask for mercy, Jesus gives them a simple command: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” They do this, and as they go, they’re healed.
But this is the part where thankfulness comes in. Because when one of the lepers realizes that he’s been healed, he turns back and thanks Jesus.
But only one. This one Samaritan leper turns back and falls at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for healing him. Jesus asks the man “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then, Jesus says to this man who returned “Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.” Now, this man has experienced spiritual renewal as well.
The Bible doesn’t tell us why the other nine didn’t return. But Jesus makes it very clear that thankfulness and gratitude are the proper response to the miracle.
It’s not likely that you’ve ever been healed from leprosy. But if you’re a Christian, you’ve experienced something far greater than that. You’ve experienced the second gift that Jesus gave. Your faith has made you well. By God’s grace, through faith, you have been brought from death to life.
So, it’s clear that gratitude is the proper response! But how do we practice this? We start by looking to the perfect model. Jesus lived a life of thankfulness, and he did it perfectly. He was constantly giving thanks to his Father, seemingly for everything. We see Jesus thanking God for food (Matt. 15:36), for listening to his prayers (John 11:41), and for his gracious will and perfect plan (Luke 10:21).
Jesus began and ended his prayers with statements of thankfulness, and he taught his disciples to do this as well (Matt. 6:9-13). Even at the Last Supper, in his final time on Earth, Jesus takes the time to practice gratitude (Mark 14:23).
Even when he wasn’t thanked, like when the other nine lepers didn’t return, Jesus was still thankful.
When we talked with our students at Impact 360 Institute, we often talk about what kind of influence you have, and what kind of legacy you want to leave. How do we, like Jesus, influence from our thankfulness? How do we leave a legacy of gratitude?
Leaving a legacy of gratitude starts by practicing thankfulness in our daily lives. For you, maybe this looks like receiving yourself a reminder to pray a prayer of thankfulness to God each day, even if your day has been difficult (1 Thess. 5:18). Giving thanks as a daily habit regardless of the circumstances is a great way to grow in gratitude and become a more thankful person.
Maybe it looks like periodically making a list of the things that you’re thankful for, and sharing that list with someone else. In doing this, try to thank the Lord for not only tangible things, but also aspects of his character like his love, grace, and mercy.
Whatever that is for you, Thanksgiving reminds us that we have an opportunity to influence from our thankfulness just like Jesus did. We have been given the greatest gift that there is. Because of Jesus, we can experience a thankfulness unlike any other. The best thing about this gift is that we get to share it with others. Let’s share our thankfulness, and leave a legacy of gratitude.