The Duty of Gratitude

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

By way of direct command, exhortation, and example, the New Testament portrays thankfulness as a Christian duty. It is the purpose of this section to survey the Scripture references which establish the duty of gratitude.

A. Gratitude Enjoined

Thanksgiving is a prominent theme in the New Testament epistles. It is referred to on many occasions, and is specifically commanded seven times. First, it is designated as being the will of God.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Th 5.18).

Second, it is presented as an evidence of walking in Christ.

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Col 2.6-7).

Third, its practice is commanded in accompaniment of prayer.

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

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Col 4.2).

Finally, it is enjoined as normal Christian behavior.

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful ... And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col 3.15, 17).

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

B. Gratitude Exhorted

There are at least two New Testament references which establish the duty of gratitude by way of exhortation or encouragement.

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col 1.12).

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men” (1 Tim 2.1).

C. Gratitude Exemplified

The example of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ also imposes the duty of gratitude on the believer. 1 John 2.6 says, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” Therefore, if Christ’s life was characterized by thankfulness, ours ought to be as well. What the gospels teach is that Jesus was publicly thankful on a number of occasions, including the feeding of the four thousand.

“And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude” (Mt 15.36).

To the powerful example of Christ is added that of Paul. His life was saturated with thanksgiving. And, since the apostle himself pled, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor 11.1; see 4.16), his life is certainly a pattern of good works.

“And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat” (Acts 27.35).

“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Eph 1.15-16).