Thanksgiving is primarily a North American holiday, yet the historical practice of thanksgiving, of giving thanks to God, goes back at least to the Biblical era. Over 2,000 years ago, King David wrote, “I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord: that I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.” (Psalms 26:6,7) King David knew firsthand the blessings of glorifying God with a grateful heart for His great goodness. He prayed and wrote many psalms of gratitude to God.
Abraham, one of the first prophets to acknowledge one God, was surely thankful after realizing he didn’t need to sacrifice his and Sara’s son, Isaac, or lose his and Hagar’s son, Ishmael, in the desert. Both sons lived to form the Jewish and Arab nations. Later, the song of Moses expressed gratitude for the Hebrews’ deliverance from Egyptian captivity. And God blessed them with His Ten Commandments.
Christians celebrate Jesus’ healings which were accompanied by thanksgiving to God for His love for His children. For example, Jesus expressed deep thanks to God before raising Lazarus from death and multiplying the loaves and fishes to feed the multitudes following him. Jesus taught that such gratitude heals.
Mohammed, the founder of the Islamic faith, taught his Muslim followers to faithfully and humbly bow in prayer to praise one God, Allah, five times a day. A more recent prophet, Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith, worshipped and praised one God for His goodness while imprisoned in Iran. His sincere gratitude to God brought him an inspired understanding of the nature of one God and unity.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, established the expression of gratitude as a basic rule of Christian Science healing. Following the example of Christ, giving thanks to God for His infinite love is considered to be a primary prayer in Christian Science treatment for the healing of sin and sickness. Mrs. Eddy writes, “What is gratitude but a powerful camera obscura, a thing focusing light where love, memory, and all within the human heart is present to manifest light.” (Miscellany, p. 164)
Religious folks understand that a grateful heart is a healthy heart. Some secular folks understand it too. Studies show that spirituality, which they note includes a spirit of gratitude, contributes to a happy, healthy life. The opposite of gratitude would be a selfish, materialistic attitude. Whenever I am tempted to feel deprived or disappointed, I strive to overcome such unworthy thoughts with spiritual, grateful thoughts that acknowledge my completeness as God’s son.
Modern day Thanksgiving celebrations are for sharing with each other and for giving gratitude to God. They are for acknowledging His abundant good made tangible in His provision of food, shelter from the elements, progress in humanity’s health, peace among most nations, as well as progress with brotherhood and fellowship.
Thanksgiving worship is as relevant today as it was throughout ancient and modern history. Recognizing God’s abundant goodness and love helps humanity feel more satisfied. It aids in quelling the demands of materialism; the fears that would instigate discord and disease; gives inspiration and avenues to fresh ideas that would help solve issues such as debt and employment challenges.
The Bible promises, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: . . . . Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.” (II Corinthians 9:8,11)