The Language of Gratitude

Lesson 1995
Tags: Thanksgiving; Gratitude
Excerpted from Thanksgiving in the New Testament: An Inductive Study

An inductive study of a biblical topic is best begun with an analysis of the terms that are used in the biblical languages in reference to said topic. This section is a survey of the various terms that are used in the Greek New Testament to express the concept of gratitude.

A surface observation of the eight terms listed in the chart above yields the conclusion that the New Testament terminology of gratitude can be classed in two categories (or families). The first four belong to the charis family, and the last four to the lego family.

A. Charis

1. Lexical Meaning

Charis is a word commonly used in the New Testament to convey the idea of grace or favor. The term eucharisteo (and cognates, eucharistia and eucharistos) signifies “to be thankful.” The charis family teaches that thankfulness entails recognition of the grace of the one who is thanked. This is probably the connotation of the English idiom “to say grace.” In saying grace, a person thanks God for his grace in supplying one’s physical sustenance.

2. Biblical Usage

The following examples demonstrate the biblical usage of charis and its cognates in reference to gratitude.

“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks [eucharisteo]: and he was a Samaritan” (Lk 17.15-16).

“ And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum, and The Three Taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked [eucharisteo] God, and took courage” (Acts 28.15).

Giving thanks [eucharisteo] always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5.20).

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving [eucharistia] let your requests be made known unto God” (Phlp 4.6).

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful [eucharistos]” (Col 3.15).

“But thanks [charis] be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15.57).

“Now thanks [charis] unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place” (2 Cor 2.14).

B. Lego

1. Lexical Meaning

Lego is the common Greek term that is equivalent to the English to say. Although lego itself is not used in the New Testament in denotation of gratitude, several verbs that are related to it are. They are (as listed in the chart) exomologeo, homologeo, anthomologeomai, and eulogeo. Both homologeo (the root of the English homology) and exomologeo signify the concept of confessing. Anthomologeomai denotes professing. Eulogeo (from which the English word eulogy is derived) usually is used to convey the idea of blessing.

All of these terms can be used to denote thanksgiving. All of them imply the uttering of a statement. Thus, the lego family of terms teaches a second truth concerning the New Testament concept of thankfulness: to thank is to declare the attributes, name, or works of the one to whom gratitude is expressed.

2. Biblical Usage

The following examples demonstrate the usage of the lego cognates that convey the meaning of thanksgiving.

“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank [exomologeo] thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Mt 11.25).

“That if thou shalt confess [homologeo] with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom 10.9).

“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks [homologeo] to his name” (Heb 13.15).

“And she coming in that instant gave thanks [anthomologeomai] likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Lk 2.38).

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed [eulogeo] it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body” (Mt 26.26).

The language used to denote gratitude in the New Testament implies that when one is thankful, he or she is simultaneously making assertions about reality. If this is the case, it is fitting to ask just what message or messages are conveyed when a person expresses gratitude. The following section of this essay will attempt to answer this question.