It is so very strange to hear the new American way of speaking of “being thankful.” Normally, when you are thankful, the object of your thankfulness is known and understood. But given the inroads secularists have made in twisting our laws and the intentions of the founders of this nation, we now have the odd specter of object-less giving of thanks. “I am thankful for my mommy and my daddy” is OK (being thankful for your daddy and your other daddy is even more PC), but you can not ask, “to whom are you thankful?” Thanks has been relegated to a warm, but very general and vague, feeling. It might be best to be thankful to Big Brother for all things: giving thanks to government is alright, but don’t you dare give thanks to God since that might cause a secularist’s feelings to be hurt, and that is nigh unto the unpardonable sin.
But the fact is that “thanksgiving” means “the giving of thanks” and when you “give” thanks you give it to someone identifiable. As Washington’s pronouncement below proves, there is no question about what was intended by the Thanksgiving holiday. It is a time for giving thanks to God for His bountiful blessings. The giving of thanks is not only a hallmark of Christian character, but it is a duty incumbent upon all men. Note the words of Paul:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Rom. 1:20-21)
God’s revelation, both externally in creation and internally within man’s conscience (for so I understand Paul’s intention) is so clear, so compelling, and so perspicuous, that man is left “without an apology,” i.e., without excuse (literally, a defense). For though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks. Two duties incumbent upon mankind as God’s creature: to honor Him as God, that is, to show Him deference and to give to Him the fear, the respect, due to the Potter on the part of the pots. And the second is to give thanks. Men know they should thank God. They know all good gifts come down from Him, and that they do not deserve the blessings they receive. Men are held accountable to give God thanks, and to refuse to do so is to demonstrate the impact of sin upon the heart and mind: refusing to give thanks to God reflects a foolish, darkened heart and vain, futile speculation.
It is no wonder, then, that giving of thanks is one of the most commonly noted results of regeneration itself: if it is natural for the creature to give thanks (outside the twisted opposition of sin), then it follows when a God-hater is turned to a God-lover, thanksgiving will flow from that redeemed heart. As the Word reminds us:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Phil. 4:6)
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with [an attitude of] thanksgiving; (Col. 4:2)
you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. (2Cor. 9:11)