In this season of the year, it’s important we ask ourselves, “Who am I thanking this Thanksgiving?” Am I thanking football for existing? Am I thanking fate for the Astros’ win? Am I thanking Macy’s department store for the annual parade? Our thanks should have more direction than that. As you think about what you’re thankful for this holiday, also consider who deserves your thanks.

 1. Thank God for all he has done.

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul alludes to the catastrophic fall of the human race and points to what is evident all around him – that human beings and human communities are plummeting headlong from their initial acts of idolatry to ever increasing forms of sin and godlessness. By wanting to be God’s equal, they have ironically become less than human. God has given them over to their own immoral desires and the result is disastrous: the moral decline of humans and their civilizations.

And there’s one critical phrase that is included at the very beginning of this narrative of decline, a phrase that highlights the idolatry that started the whole sorry business – it is that, from the very beginning of creation, although human beings knew God sufficiently to worship him as the true God, “they did not honor him as God, or give thanks” (1:19-21). Did you notice that? That the beginning of all idolatry and sin starts with the refusal to give God the thanks that he is due.

Giving thanks is an act of humility and submission. By its very nature, saying “thank you” concedes that we have received gifts and blessings that we have not earned or deserved. Giving thanks belongs to a larger pattern and constellation of words that suggest submission, humility, faith, trust, and being obedient to the One who made us, blesses us, and deserves our loyalty. We are not the masters of our own destiny.

This year, when all of us gather with family and friends, groups large or small, to celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s first of all remember to give God thanks. He is the Founder of all that is good and the generous Benefactor who gives us life, shelter, family, friends, food, clothing, and opportunity. He is our true Father, and He cares for us and watches over us. Not a sparrow falls from the sky that He does not notice – therefore, we may know and be assured that he cares for us. Tell him thank you.

 2. Thank your family and friends.

As we gather together with friends and family, let’s practice the prayers of thanks by remembering to say thank you to one another. When someone holds the door open, or passes us a plate of food, or gives us a smile, or offers to help carry in the groceries, set the table or wash the dishes, be sure to say thank you and return those same gifts of kindness.

Beyond the everyday tasks people do for you, also consider the sacrifices that are made for you. Put yourself in your mother’s, father’s, or grandparent’s shoes, or try to see yourself through the eyes of your siblings and cousins. People have made both large and small sacrifices for you, and you are special to them, a recipient of their love. Say thank you for their affection and their sacrifices. Even if you don’t say it with your words, try to demonstrate thankfulness with your actions and attitude.

 3. Be thankful for the many people who have been generous to you.

None of us lives on our own. All of us are the beneficiaries of the generosity of others who’ve gone before us, whether family or friends or unknown donors. At the university, we remember this often. Our families have made sacrifices over many years so that each of us would have the opportunity to grow up, be sheltered and nourished, and be able to study and work at a place like HBU.

Remember to be thankful for the many donors who, through their dollars given years ago, created endowments that provide scholarships to students today across the United States. Whether through family or friends or unknown benefactors, we are all indebted to others.

Use this great opportunity marked out on the calendar – this yearly reminder of God’s goodness and the love and support of family, friends, and even those we’ve never met – to offer out loud or in your heart a few words of thanks.

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Dr. Robert B. Sloan is president of Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas, and the author of a new young adult fantasy series about an orphan named Hamelin Stoop.

Edited by Joannah Buffington

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