Tongues Tuned to Thankfulness
When we use someone else’s possession, we use it very differently than if it were our own. Similarly, when someone gives us a gift, that gift always is connected to the giver. If someone paid for your college tuition, or gave you a car, that would probably change how you approached your college education, or how you treated the car. The Bible teaches us that everything really belongs to God, but that he gives good gifts, and so that should shape how we live, it should make our entire lives one big chorus of thanks to God.
The Giver of Gifts
James 1.17 says, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.’ God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. He loves to give gifts to his creation, which itself is a free gift; he is the Father of lights. But he also never changes, and so if he gives good gifts today, you can be sure that he will give good gifts tomorrow. God gives us life as a gift, as well as grace and faith to believe in Jesus (Eph 2. 8-9), gifts to his church (Eph 4), and Christ himself for our sins (1 Cor 9.15). He gives us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3), and amazingly, he gives himself to us in the pure, eternal, glory of his personal Triune presence (Rev 21-22). We definitely can say with Paul, ‘What do you have that you did not receive?’
If God has given everything good and perfect, and everything we have is a gift from him, our entire lives should be simply responses to his free and loving goodness. There is nothing left to be done: no earning, no striving after, no burden, no do-it-yourself religion, but simply gratitude, receiving all that he gives us and returning thankfulness to him. This is in fact what the Gospel does to us: it enrolls us in the heavenly choir, where our tongues are trained to sing his praises.
Praise the LORD!// Praise God in his sanctuary;// praise him in his mighty heavens!// Praise him for his mighty deeds;// praise him according to his excellent greatness!// Praise him with trumpet sound;// praise him with lute and harp!// Praise him with tambourine and dance;// praise him with strings and pipe!// Praise him with sounding symbols;// praise him with loud clashing symbols!// Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!// Praise the LORD.
From heaven to earth, by every means possible and by every person a joyous sound of praise is to be made to him who is worthy and great in his deeds toward us.1 He desires that we respond to his greatness and grace by enjoying what he has given to us, which is to say, he desires that we enjoy him. This seems too good to be true. Part of the Gospel is simply believing that he has already given us everything and that we are simply to praise and give thanks to him.
Bringing It All Back
Our gratitude to God for his loving and mighty work of creation and redemption is simply referring everything back to God. When we do that we make him our highest and best end. It was as if God said,
Refer all things therefore unto Me in the first place, for I am He who has given all. From Me, the small and the great, the poor and the rich draw, as from a living fountain, the water of life (John 4.14); and they that willingly and freely serve Me shall receive “grace for grace” (John 1.16). But he who desires to glory in things outside of Me (1 Cor 1.29), or to take pleasure in some private good, shall not be grounded in true joy, or be enlarged in his heart, but shall in many ways be encumbered and straitened.
Therefore you ought to attribute nothing good to yourself, neither attribute virtue to any man; but give all unto God, without whom man has nothing. I have given all; I will to have all again; and I require a return of thanks.2
Our entire life, from the smallest to the biggest part, should be an expression of thanks to him. May God help us to know more and more his astonishing kindness in Jesus Christ, and offer our lives as a song of thanksgiving to him. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
- Motyer, Psalms.
- Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, 114.