By Matt Freeman
Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. Romans 1:21 (NLT)
Was the apostle Paul being overly dramatic in this letter in describing the stubborn condition of the human heart? Or, does the absence of thanksgiving to God truly reveal the twisted condition of our humanity?
Notice what Paul says at the start of the verse: “Yes, they knew God, but . . .” But. Knowing God, but. Humanity may have an understanding of God. We may have seen His work, His miracles, His heart on display. But even with that knowledge, here’s what we often do with it: “They wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks.”
And therein lies the problem. Knowing, and not thanking.
But thanks be to God, He did not keep us in that condition! If we have called upon the name of the Lord Jesus in faith, trusting in His life, death, and resurrection, we are saved—and we are now a people who can give thanks! Knowing and thanking is restored in Jesus Christ (John 17:3). And yet, we are still prone to forget to give thanks, and we are tempted to not give thanks even when we know we should. But God is gracious to help us there, too. How?
Time for a quick Greek lesson! Eucharisteō (yoo-kar-is-teh-ō): To be thankful, give thanks. Perhaps you’re familiar with the word Eucharist, which is a name for what many Christians refer to as Communion or the Lord’s Supper. It’s what we do to tangibly remember what God has done for us through Jesus Christ—i.e., what we’re ultimately thankful for.
This definition comes from Strong’s Concordance:
(v): properly, acknowledging that “God’s grace works well,” i.e. for our eternal gain and His glory; to give thanks – literally, “thankful for God’s good grace.”
The word eucharisteō is used 38 times in the New Testament. It seems that giving and expressing thanks to God for His grace (unmerited blessing and favor) is essential to who we are, both in our new identity and in our life as Christians. It’s not enough to merely feel thanks or assume thanks (“Of course I’m thankful!”). We must actually give thanks to God.
This, in turn, causes us to respond in giving thanks for others, too—the people God has put before us. When was the last time you told someone “I thank God for you”? Sure, we’ve said thank you to people when they gave us some money, poured a cup of coffee, gave us a trite blessing after a sneeze, made something for us, held a door, or showed up to an important event. But have we actually and actively thanked God for them?
Maybe this week will be the time when, by God’s grace, we can experience thanks in a better light and give thanks to the One who deserves every last drop of it from all of creation. The stars and skies have had a pretty good head start with this (see Psalm 19). Let’s join them!