The saintly Bart Simpson once prayed the family grace, “God we paid for all this ourselves, so thanks for nothing.” Though we might not be so bold to pray in this way, we often communicate it in our lack of thanks. In an affluent culture, we can take for granted that all that we have has been given. We can forget, as the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, that “all things come to us, not by chance but by [God’s] fatherly hand.” Psalm 104:14-15, “He causes grass to grow for the livestock and provides crops for man to cultivate, producing food from the earth, wine that makes human hearts glad—making his face shine with oil—and bread that sustains human hearts.” As Psalm 33:5 says, “the earth is full of the LORD’s unfailing love.” All these gifts point us to the Giver.
Understanding this should result in a grateful reception of the gifts of creation. The apostle Paul told his young protege Timothy that he needed to point out to the church that foods created by God are “to be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, since it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer” (1 Timothy 4:3b-5).
Some Christians fear that they might be sinning anytime they catch themselves enjoying life. They view their faith as a detachment of soul from body, a severing of heaven from earth. Thankfully, this is the farthest thing from biblical Christianity. We do well to avoid two pitfalls: the rejection of creation and the worship of creation. One leads to ungrateful boredom; the other leads to indulgent idolatry. One rejects the Giver by rejecting His gifts. The other forgets the Giver and misuses His gifts.
We’ve been given a better, more satisfying script for life: God gives us many good gifts; and we ought to receive them joyfully with grateful hearts. Paul says that God’s gifts are sanctified by two realities: His word and our words. God blesses His creation, calling it good (Gen.1); we send the blessing back to God by saying “Thank you.” This should cause the world around us to become a living, breathing sacrament. The good gifts point us to the One who gave them. This is one reason why Christians should pray and give thanks before we eat. That “table grace” is a regular reminder that God is our Creator and Sustainer. We depend on Him for everything.
Yet, it goes far beyond the table. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the play and the opera, and grace before the concert and the pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing; and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” This is simply an application of 1 Corinthians 10:31 – that whether we eat or drink, we should do all to the glory of God.
The good gifts of creation and the joy of living aren’t a distraction from God, but a way to enjoy God more fully. We know this to be true, because the God of Creation is also the God of Redemption. Just as God blessed the creation in the beginning, He has blessed His creation again through the resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, God has reclaimed His creation in Christ, and we look forward to the day of the New Creation when He will make all things new (Rev. 21:1-5).
Until then, we receive and live out His good gifts. With this perspective, we can be the most joyful people the world has ever seen. In a culture of over-indulgence, boredom, and ingratitude, may our eyes be opened to the goodness of our glorious God. Give thanks! You are never more human than when you give thanks to your Maker. You are never more Christian than when you give thanks to your Savior.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks Him and bless His name.