How Can We Possibly Give Thanks For All God Has Given Us?

Today’s passage has both literal and metaphorical meanings for us to contemplate. Only in the light of faith can both be understood and practiced. And both, indeed, are to be practiced by the Christian believer.

The truth is that nothing belongs to us; all is gift. It is in the light of faith that we come to realize that thanksgiving to God is our most common desire. It is in the light of our Christian faith that we realize how much God has given us in terms of our skills, our talents, and yes, even our monetary wealth. He has also given us the grace of these skills and talents to be used in the service of others, not just ourselves. We are nothing but for the grace of God. Thanksgiving, then, is our desire and our joy. How do we give thanks to God for all that God has given us?

Here is a little parable to contemplate concerning the idea of today’s passage. Think of a grandmother who goes to buy a Christmas gift for her grandchild, a growing teenager. She wraps herself up in a heavy winter coat and puts on boots and gloves to go out into the cold of a winter’s day to catch a bus to go downtown to shop for her teenaged grandchild. All the way there and all the time she is shopping, she is thinking of the child and her deep love for the child. She picks out a gift, pays for it, and takes the bus home again. When she gets home she takes the time to wrap it beautifully and all the while her mind is filled with the child’s face and her tender thoughts of love for that child.

On Christmas Eve, at her daughter and son-in-law’s home, they are all gathered to open presents. The teenager opens the gift from her grandmother and it is an item of clothing that she would not be caught dead wearing among her friends. But as she opens it she sees the look of love on her grandmother’s face, so without hesitation, she beams with excitement and rushes to her room to put it on for grandma. That’s what thanksgiving looks like. It is given, not because one has received what one wanted for oneself, but because one recognizes the love of the gift-giver that it represents.

We are to give thanks to God, then, by “passing it on.” The New Testament expresses this proverb’s message this way: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48) This applies to both the material wealth we have gained and to the graces of faith, hope, and love that we have been given. The gifts we have been given are not to be horded but to be shared out freely. The more we have, the more we are expected to give in return. Nothing. Nothing is ours. All belongs to the Gift-Giver. And he expects us to give as generously as we have received. That is true with our wealth, and with the first fruits of our spiritual gifts. Let us not forget Jesus’ words: “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

Lord, help us to develop thankful and generous hearts. Deepen our understanding that it is in giving that we receive. Give us the desire to give you thanks by sharing freely all that you have given us with all our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in greatest need of our gifts. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.