Thanksgiving

13 examples of thankfulness in the Bible

 

Here’s a list of biblical examples of people showing gratitude.

1. David thanks God for his kingdom

Before becoming king of Israel, David was a wanted man. The current king Saul was threatened by David’s popularity with the people, and hunted David across the countryside.

However, God delivered David from Saul and all his enemies, and made David the king of Israel. Under David’s leadership, Israel’s influence expanded greatly. David became a high king, with the surrounding nations acknowledging him as their ruler.

After Saul’s death, David sings a song of praise to God, which includes this line near the end:

You exalted me above my foes;
from a violent man you rescued me.
Therefore I will praise you, LORD, among the nations
(2 Sam 22:49–50a)

The Hebrew for “praise” here actually means an expression of thanks to God.

2. David thanks God for wealth (while giving it back to God)

You probably know that Solomon was the king of Israel who had the privilege of building a temple to the Lord in Jerusalem. (That’s why it’s called “Solomon’s temple.”) It was a magnificent, magnificent building.

But Solomon didn’t design it: that honor goes to David. Before he died, David made plans for a great temple in Jerusalem. Those plans included a massive fundraising campaign to collect gold, silver, jewels, and supplies for building the temple.

That fundraiser was wildly successful: the leaders of the people gave generously—even out-giving David himself!

David was overjoyed. In response to his people’s generosity, he gave a prayer of thanks to God which includes this tidbit:

Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.
(1 Ch 29:12–13)

3. The psalmist thanks God for salvation

In the 118th Psalm, the psalmist calls all the people to give thanks to the Lord, then launches into a testimony of how God delivered him (or her) from disaster.

I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.
(Ps 118:21)

4. The psalmist thanks God for his laws

Psalm 119 is the crown jewel of the psalter: a long, long ode to the Torah. The psalmist writing this piece extols God’s laws over and over and over again, including in the 62nd verse.

Here, the psalmist is proclaiming his dedication to the laws of the Lord. He goes so far as to say he wakes up in the middle of the night to thank God for his laws:

At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.
(Ps 119:62)

5. Daniel thanks God for wisdom and power

Few characters in the Bible are quite like Daniel. This young man of royal blood was captured in Judah before Jerusalem was destroyed, and taken away to Babylon. Daniel resolves to be faithful to God and his laws, while also striving to seek the good of the city he lives in (Jer. 29:7).

Early in the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar has a troubling dream. He cannot understand it, and demands that the magicians and wise men of Babylon explain it to him. Nobody can except Daniel—who understands that this wisdom is given to him from God:

I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king
(Da 2:23)

Daniel is not only given wisdom, but great influence as well. For interpreting the king’s dream, Daniel is made the ruler of all Babylon’s wise men.

6. The healed leper thanks Jesus

During Bible times, leprosy was a serious problem. A leper had to live outside the community of people, as they were “unclean.” Lepers were disgraced outcasts in Jewish society.

But when 10 lepers happen upon Jesus, they call out to him for mercy. Jesus heals them all, but one thanks him for doing so.

The twist: the thankful man is a Samaritan! Even after being cleansed of his illness, he was still someone that the religious Jews would see as an outsider. Yet he still comes to Jesus, a Jew, and thanks him.

He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
(Lk 17:16)

7. Jesus gives thanks before meals

Jesus “gives thanks” before both miraculously feeding multitudes and announcing the New Covenant at the Last Supper.

Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied.
(Mt 15:36–37)

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
(Mk 14:23)

 8. Jesus thanks God to demonstrate his authority

Right before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus thanks God for hearing him. (Though he says it for the benefit of those watching the miracle take place.)

Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
(Jn 11:41–42)

9. Tertullus thanks Felix for peaceful governance

When the Jews try to kill Paul, a Roman commander sends him to the governor to have the case examined. The Jews try to frame Paul as a troublemaker, and bring Tertullus, a lawyer, to plead their case.

Tertullus’ strategy is to thank the governor, Felix, for a period of peace. He then accuses Paul of disturbing that peace that Felix has maintained.

We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude.
(Ac 24:2–3)

What a suck-up.

But still, if your local political leaders are doing a good job in your community, consider sending them a letter of thanks. Their interns will enjoy reading it.

10. Paul gives thanks to God for bread and safety

Paul’s ship is about to be wrecked, and everyone aboard knows it. However, Paul assures them that nobody will perish in the accident. He encourages everyone to eat a meal so that they have enough energy to swim for shore.

Before breaking bread, he thanks God in front of all the passengers and begins to eat. His shipmates are encouraged, and eat as well.

[Paul] took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all.
(Ac 27:35

11. Paul thanks God for Christian fellowship in Rome

Paul is greeted in Rome by a group of brothers and sisters who traveled to welcome him to the city. When he sees these people, he expresses gratitude to God.

At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.
(Ac 28:15–16)

12. Paul thanks God for Christian church members and friends

Paul thanks God for the Romans (1:8), the Corinthians (1 Cor 1:4), the Ephesians (1:16), the Philippians (1:3), the Colossians’ faith (1:3), the Thessalonians (1 Thess 1:2; 2:13; 2 Thess 1:3; 2:13), and Philemon (4).

He especially calls out Priscilla and Aquilla, who risked their lives for him. Paul says that all churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them (Ro 16:3).

13. Paul thanks God for spiritual gifts

OK, technically Paul thanks God that he speaks in tongues (more than the Corinthians, BTW). But even though tongues is a terrific gift from God, Paul notes that it’s not as useful as intelligible instruction.

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
(1 Co 14:18–19



 


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Definitions of thanksgiving in the Bible


 

 

Definitions of thanksgiving in the Bible

So what does it mean to give thanks?

Several Greek and Hebrew words are translated “thanks” and “thanksgiving” in the Bible, but here are the big two.

Hebrew: ydh

This is the main word for thanks in the Old Testament. The concept of thanks comes up 102 times in the Old Testament, and this word is used 72 of those times. Here’s the definition:

Acknowledging what is right about God in praise and thanksgiving (1 Chr. 16:34). It can also mean a right acknowledgment of self before God in confessing sin (Lev. 26:40)[1]

Greek: eucharisteo

Thankfulness comes up 71 times in the New Testament, and most of those instances are this word, or related to this word. The definition:

To show oneself grateful, to be thankful, to give thanks […] used in a religious sense with or without reference to God.[2]

My liturgical friends will recognize the word “Eucharist” in this definition. This term comes from Jesus’ giving thanks before eating his last supper with the apostles (1 Co 11:24).

Learn more about what eucharist is.

What that means for us

One thing I love about the Hebrew definition of thanks: it’s totally tied to who God is. The more we learn about God, the more we should praise and glorify Him.

The Psalmist repeatedly calls us to give thanks to the Lord for two things: His lovingkindness, and for his miracles among men (Ps 107:1, 8, 15, 21).

This isn’t just a polite “thanks” for when something good happens. This is an outpouring of praise to God for who he is and what he has done.

How do we give thanks?

Biblical definition of thanksgiving

I suppose all this talk of definitions is only helpful if we have a good means of applying it. I could list off a few ways to be intentionally thankful, but the psalmist does this a lot better than I ever could:

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.

(Psalm 100)

 
  
 



Scripture Cards


Instructions

Print and cut out the cards. Then you can do all sorts of things with the uplifting cards.
- Write a note on the back and give it to a neighbor or mail it to someone who is alone.
- Place the cards around your house so you can read and consider God’s Word. Try to memorize the verses.
- Tape cards on nursing home windows (get permission first) or include them in care packages.
- Laminate the cards to make them last longer.