November 27, 2014

FROM THE ARCHIVES: THE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE FAITH:

The Impossibility of Thanksgiving: Why gratefulness is more gift than duty. (Mark Galli, 11/25/2009, Christianity Today)

Several biblical passages talk about thanksgiving, but few get to the heart of the matter better than Ephesians 5:20, where the apostle Paul says we should be " ... giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The idea of giving thanks is central to Paul's entire ministry. We see it not only here, but in many of his letters.

For example, to the Colossians he writes, "May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks´╗┐ to the Father ... " (1:11-12) To the Thessalonians he says, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Many other examples abound.

And he practices what he preaches. To the Romans, he says, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you" (1:8). In his first letter to Corinth, he writes, "I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus" (1:4). To the Ephesians he explains, "I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers" (1:16). And on it goes.

Paul is a thanksgiving junkie. And he is so because he understands that thankfulness is not one of many virtues that characterize the Christian life, but the characteristic of faith.

To look at it from the other side: It is not pride nor greed nor lust but ungratefulness that he says has caused so much confusion and despair on the planet: "For although they knew God," Paul writes of humanity, "they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Rom. 1:21). From there, he describes how things just got worse and worse and worse, so that in the end, he can only describe humankind as "foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless" (1:31). And it all begins with ungratefulness.

So, when Paul summarizes the nature of the Christian life, and thus the fundamental activity of the church, he frames it in terms of gratefulness. "Therefore," he tells the Colossians, "as you received Christ Jesus the Lord" [how the Christian life gets started], so walk in him [how the Christian life is made manifest--how exactly?], rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (2:6-7).

He is very much in sync with the entire biblical witness. Gratefulness is the most characteristic act of the people of God, as witnessed by the Psalms, the Old Testament's hymnal: "Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!" (Ps. 147:7). It's practically a clich├ę.



[originally posted: 11/26/09]


Posted by at November 27, 2014 12:19 AM

  

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