As Thanksgiving approaches, the world seems to be less thankful as each day goes by. Many feel they are owed more than they have and seek to grab that which another has. However, as we look at the Bible, we find even the very words for “thank” have a greatly contrasting message, and that they go to a recipient not regarded by most of those feeling owed.
These days, we say, “Thank you,” almost at every turn: “Thanks” for holding a door open, to a cashier giving us our change, to someone saying, “Have a nice day.” That isn’t necessarily wrong, but when we delve into Scripture, we see “thanks” utilized differently.
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. Its word for “thank” is “yadah,” a verb meaning “to throw or cast,” as in, “Cast your blessing,” or, “Throw upward your praises.” The word also may be translated “praise,” “confess,” or “glorify.”
Virtually all the more than 100 times yadah appears in Scripture, it’s to thank God for who he is or what he’s done. For example, 1 Chronicles 16:8-9 says, “Oh, give thanks (yadah, הוֹד֤וּ) to the Lord! Call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing psalms to him; talk of all his wondrous works!”
The New Testament was originally Greek. We’re more familiar with its word for thanks: “eucharisteó” (like the Roman Catholic “eucharist”), a compound of two words, “good” and “grace.” We could render it, “God's grace works well," for our eternal gain and his glory.
In Luke 17:15-19, Jesus heals 10 lepers: “One of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified (doxazōn, δοξάζων) God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks (eucharistōn, εὐχαριστῶν). And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not 10 cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory (doxan, δόξαν) to God except this foreigner?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’”
Eucharisteó is used 39 times in the New Testament, always offering praise to the Lord for his goodness. However, in Colossians 3:15 is the only occasion it is “eucharistoi,” an adjective: “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful (εὐχάριστοι).” Here it means, literally, “grace-filled for God's grace."
So why should we be thankful? Let me give four biblically based reasons:
This offer of eternal life will not be available forever. The Lord is being longsuffering toward us, not wanting any of us to perish but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). However, because we are intelligent creatures in God’s image who can choose, he will allow us to die in our sins.
Those who refuse forgiveness will “go to hell, into the fire that shall never end, where ‘their worm does not die and the flame is not quenched,’” Jesus quotes Isaiah in Mark 9:43-44, then stating this again twice. If one ever wanted an assurance the nonbeliever’s punishment is never-ending, then this would be it.
“Hell” here is "Gehenna," Greek for the Hebrew “Gêhinnōm,” or "Valley of Hinnom,” which Christ uses 11 times in Scripture. Southwest of Jerusalem outside the city gate, this narrow cavity was where pagans made sacrifices to their demons. The town’s trash was burned there, and eventually corpses of criminals or other unfortunates went there to be consumed in the fires kept constantly going by those tending the dump. This uncomfortable, dirty, blazing, painful image is what our Lord considered most illustrative of the abode of the unsaved dead.
The Good News is it is your choice where you will go – heaven or hell – and it is very simple: Repent, believe, and follow Christ, or live without him and his blessings now and forever. Do not let this decision be more difficult than it is. The devil will try to complicate it in your mind, but know “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
I specifically am thankful for a town where people care about their neighbors & homes; a nation in which the Gospel may be openly spoken; a world to inhabit teeming with life, alone among planets; a family that loves me; friends who bless me; a church that has called me; a position in which I am paid to do what I love, shepherd and preach the Gospel; and most wonderfully, the gift of life without end in the presence of Jesus Christ.
What are you thankful for today – and to whom?
About the author: The Rev. Kyle Huckins, Ph.D., has an earned doctorate and taught both journalism and religious studies in universities, winning three honors for scholarly research on the intersection of faith and media.
He's won 25 awards for professional media writing and production in a career stretching back to the 1980s and covering every mass medium. For 20 years, he's worked in public relations and marketing with outstanding results in placing articles, generating click-throughs, growing social-platform accounts, and more.
Ordained in 2003, he's clergy and has served congregations and their associations in numerous positions of pastoral, administrative and educational leadership. He has a master's degree in theological studies from Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary. Click here for more on Huckins.
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Jesus 11 times talks of "Gehenna," translated "hell." That is Greek for the Hebrew for "Valley of Hinnom," the Jerusalem dump where unending fires burned to consume refuse and corpses.
People are dead in sin until they realize they cannot save themselves, and they give their lives to Christ. Then, God washes away their offenses with the blood of Jesus and infuses them with new life.
The ranks of the ungrateful seem to be growing these days. Many contend they are owed others' money, possessions, power and peace. As they push people, they push away God's blessings.
Priests, singers and others in ancient Israel would frequently come together at the temple in Jerusalem to give thanks to God.
People say "thanks" to others constantly, but when it comes to God, "no thanks" is most often heard.
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