What a funny phrase that is. “Give Thanks”. It’s funny because it’s sort of a contradiction in terms. Almost. Kinda. Here’s what I mean:

Give. It’s a transaction. It’s the act of transferring ownership of something that now belongs to me and allowing someone else to, essentially, take over ownership what was previously mine. We give time, we give talent, we give treasure. We give soup. We give music lessons. We give cars, guitars and fruit bars. When we give we don’t usually expect anything in return. “Look, I’m giving this to you, I don’t want your money…”

Thanks. It’s the expressing of gratitude for something I’ve been given. I thank my wife. I thank my God. I thank my pastor/father-in-law. I thank my friends. I thank American soldiers. In thank my kids’ violin teacher. I thank someone for something I have been given.

I give thanks.

It’s almost as if the two words were really meant to be together all the time. In my giving I receive and have something to be thankful for. From my gratitude and thankfulness the giver experiences a reciprocity that is meant for them to receive in their giving and for me to give in my receiving.

Give thanks.

Giving thanks is like worship. In worship I am caught up in a beautiful cycle of giving and receiving; a cycle of pouring out (giving) my thanks as I am filled up with God’s gifts. It’s amazing, wonderful, beautiful and mysterious.

For more on this fascinating idea read Harold Best’s Unceasing Worship.

For John Piper, the idea that we would show up to worship on Sunday mornings, or any time, with only the purpose of giving, and not also receiving from God, is actually not even Biblical. And I think I agree.

Many churches, depending on the tradition, place an emphasis on worship as a way of giving back to God. It’s about giving Him something that he deserves, i.e., our praise, our attention, wholly, undivided. But that is at least incomplete. A worship service, at least one in which there exists a time frame in which corporate, congregational singing happens (take, for example, a typical Vineyard or Sovereign Grace worship service), should be a time of purposeful connection with God the Holy Spirit in such a way that there is an offering from the people of God that occurs, and a corresponding receiving from God that occurs. In this way, the people of God outpour as they are renewed and refilled by grace. It is a two-way interaction; a dance, rather than a performance before an empty concert hall. We receive our joy. We receive healing. By opening up this “channel”, so-to-speak, we receive his love and affection, his correction and encouragement, his grace and his truth.

In addition, this kind of two-way interplay does something else for us, the worshipers. It serves to remind us of our utter dependence upon God for life and breath and everything. It recalls to our minds the reality that from and through and to him are all things, and so, to him be glory forever. Amen. I am able to worship God because he enables me to worship him. The idea that I could ever bring anything to him that would adequately honor his value and dignity is simply foolish. Thankfully he has made a way through the shed blood of Jesus.

But the thing that this kind of interaction with God does for me, and this is where I move from the objective to the subjective, is change. It changes me. Little by little. More and more. Day by day. It changes me ever more into the image of Jesus. As I look into this dark mirror, I can see, more and more clearly, the image of Christ (1 Corinthians 13:12). That is revelation. That is freedom. That is obedience. That is worship.

Give. Thanks.

~a

Soli Deo Gloria

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