The United States sets aside the last Thursday of each November as a day of Thanksgiving to God for all He has given. However, as the years have passed, the original giving of thanks to God has been replaced with a general ‘I’m thankful for all I have’ in the media and popular culture.
I know this message goes to thousands of others outside the USA, but allow me this liberty as what I am sharing goes way beyond a holiday message, for I’d like to share the true meaning of the word ‘thanksgiving’.
In I Corinthians 11:24, Paul says of the Lord at the Last Supper: “And when He had given thanks, He broke the bread saying this is my body, broken for you…”
The Greek word for ‘thanks’ here is ‘eucharisteo’. The core word, eucharist, has various suffixes depending on whether it is uses as a noun, verb, or adjective: ia, eo, or os.
It comes from the words ‘eu’ which means ‘well’, as in ‘it is well with my soul’. The root of ‘charis’, which means ‘grace’ can be seen, as well as ‘charizomai’, which means ‘to give freely’ or ‘grace given freely’.
This is why the Roman Catholics, Episcopalians (Anglican) and other denominations refer to the Lord’s Supper as celebrating the Eucharist, or Communion.
The sense of thanksgiving being rooted in communion with God and loved ones is exactly what this word, eucharist, communicates.
OK, so what does it mean?
If modern Americans spoke first century Greek, popular culture would probably use ‘exomologeo’ for the word Thanksgiving, as it merely means ‘to make acknowledgement’ and is used in the NT as such.
But Jesus ‘gave eucharisteo’ at His Last Supper, and this reveals the deeper meaning for you and I.
The root of ‘well’ and ‘grace/given freely’ reveals that the heart that gives thanks has a grace within, a place for the Lord first, and therefore directs that humble grace back to Him as we say ‘it is well’ and ‘I freely give gratitude’ to You.
That means the giving of thanks is not an act of thanking a largely unknown and invisible God ‘out there,’ who observes us from afar while we sit detached before our feast, but flowing from within directed right back to Him.
Thanksgiving in the pages of the New Testament reveal the heart of the one giving thanks as one in communion with the Lord, a heart that knows the grace of God, and gives that grace back to Him, knowing He has made all things well.
It is often said in marriage ceremony’s that the vows a man and woman make to each other before God and witnesses, are spoken from an inward grace, an inward love that naturally finds its outlet in the making of vows to each other, with the consummation of those vows in the marriage bed.
In the same way, when the Lord gave thanks, that thanks flowed from the inward grace in His heart for us, immediately demonstrated by the vows of the breaking of bread and giving of wine as symbols of His sacrifice, consummated by the act of His death on the cross.
If He did not first have that inward grace expressing thanks freely to the Father as He broke that bread for what He was about to do, His words of thanks and later sacrifice would have been merely an empty act of obedience, a hollow shell.
The giving of thanks therefore flows from a firm and certain knowledge of the grace and ultimate plan of God, while in communion with Him, not merely an external prayer before we eat a large meal.
When we gather around the Thanksgiving table with loved ones, whether we realize it or not, we mirror that Last Supper and the Communion the Lord shared with those closest to Him in His time of sacrifice. Let us likewise commune with Him first, and then with loved ones this year, as we direct grace and love back to Him with grateful hearts.
It isn’t often I share in this space some of what I cover in a cd/MP3 series, and it was not my intention to do so today, but the subject of the giving of thanks has been so within me this last very difficult month, that I just wanted to share what my thoughts have been focused on. Thank you for being part of my life.