“What are you most thankful for this year?” It’s the question we anticipate passing around the table as we celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. Reciting our gratitude is part of the turkey dinner and pumpkin pie. It’s what we do on Thanksgiving.
Like many of our American traditions, Thanksgiving has retained some shallow roots of what it was originally intended to be, but for most of us, it has lost the “punch” of spiritual significance. Being thankful means more than sharing a list of good things in your life. Throughout Jewish and Christian history, true thanksgiving has been paired with a “sacrifice.”
Before your mind goes to slaughtered goats from the Old Testament, remember that we are still called to bring a different kind of sacrifice to the Lord as New Testament Christians. The writer of Hebrews spells this out for us:
Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. (Hebrews 13:15–16)
Even if we have grateful hearts this week, most of us celebrate without anything resembling a sacrifice. Probably the closest we will get to sacrificing is sitting next to a relative we don’t get along with. Yet true thanksgiving means more than writing God a proverbial “thank you note” for all of our blessings. An incident in David’s life helps paint the picture for why thanksgiving should also include a “sacrifice of praise.”1