Gratitude is a virtue that is emphasized throughout the Bible. As Christians, cultivating an attitude of thankfulness to God helps us to grow closer to Him and recognize His abundant blessings in our lives. In this post, we will explore key examples of gratitude in the Bible and what they can teach us about giving thanks.
Giving thanks is central to the Christian faith. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” As believers, we are called not just to give thanks for the obvious blessings, but to have a spirit of gratitude in every situation.
Gratitude flows out of a recognition that God is good and everything we have comes from His hand. When we thank Him for His gifts, whether tangible or intangible, we affirm our trust in His wisdom and sovereignty. This posture keeps us mindful of His presence with us at all times.
Here are some key takeaways on biblical gratitude:
- Gratitude was a common response to miracles and divine aid
- Prayers of thanksgiving recognized God’s power and goodness
- Thank offerings were a form of worship and acknowledgement of God’s provision
- Psalms contain many examples of giving thanks
- Paul frequently opened his letters with prayers of gratitude
- Lack of gratitude was seen as a sin
As we explore examples of gratitude throughout Scripture, we can gain wisdom on how to cultivate greater thankfulness in our own lives. Expressing gratitude to God helps transform our hearts and minds to be more dependent on Him amidst the highs and lows of life.
Gratitude for Miracles and Divine Aid
One of the most common contexts for gratitude in the Bible is following miraculousprovision or divine aid. When God would intervene in a powerful way to save His people, gratitude was always the immediate response.
In Exodus 15, Moses and the Israelites sang a song of praise to God after He parted the Red Sea to help them escape the pursuing Egyptians. Verse 1 proclaims, “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.”
The passage goes on to gratefully recount God’s saving power and the vanquishing of Pharaoh’s army. The miracle elicited a spirit of rejoicing and thanksgiving.
When Jesus healed the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19, only one returned to glorify God and give thanks. Jesus asked where the other nine were and lamented their lack of gratitude. Clearly, Jesus saw thanksgiving as the proper response to His miracles.
Many more examples show gratitude following God’s miraculous provisions.
When Elijah prayed and God raised a young boy from the dead in 1 Kings 17, the mother’s immediate response was thanking Elijah for interceding, saying “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth” (verse 24).
Expressions of gratitude were the natural reply to miraculous displays of God’s power.
Prayers of Thanksgiving
Psalm 9 proclaims, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart” (verse 1) and goes on to praise God for executing judgment and justice for the oppressed.
Psalm 75 acknowledges that all blessings and victories come from the Lord’s hand when it says, “it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another” (verse 7).
His response to surviving the night in verse 23 says, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” Daniel thanked God for miraculously delivering him.
Paul also offered many prayers of thanksgiving in his New Testament letters. In Philippians 1:3, he wrote, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Expressions of gratitude flowed continually from Paul for the work God was doing in the early churches.
In addition to prayers and songs of praise, the Old Testament records how bringing thank offerings to the temple was an integral form of Israelite worship. Leviticus 22 details different types of sacrifices people would present to God out of gratitude for His gifts and blessings.
Though we no longer follow ceremonial laws about offerings, the sacrifices were a tangible way for Israelites to show appreciation to God for the produce of their land, the abundance of their flocks and herds, and His daily provision.
As an agrarian society, the ebb and flow of the harvest was the central reality governing their lives. Thank offerings honored God as the source of their prosperity.
The offerings also reminded them of God’s past faithfulness in bringing them out of Egypt into the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 26 instructed them to bring the first portion of their harvest as a tribute offering.
As they presented it, they were to pray: “My father was a wandering Aramean…the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression…He brought us out of Egypt…and brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (verses 5, 7, 8, 9, 15).
The offerings were accompanied by reciting God’s redemptive work.
Psalms of Gratitude
The Book of Psalms stands out as a rich collection of songs and poems expressing thanksgiving and praise to God. There are too many examples to discuss them all here. But a few key psalms can illustrate the depth and variety of gratitude displayed toward God.
Psalm 100 calls everyone to “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth” (verse 1). The psalmist urges, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (verse 4). This psalm promotes exuberant gratitude as the proper posture toward our Creator.
Psalm 9 proclaims, “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds” (verse 1). It goes on to declare praises for God’s justice in judging the wicked.
Psalms of ascent like Psalm 126 paint moving pictures of gratitude for God redeeming His people, using imagery like dreamers being filled with laughter and joy.
The psalmist vividly describes the relief and gratitude of those returning from exile in verse 3: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”
These songs illustrate the wide range of reasons to praise God and the intense joy His people felt in thanking Him. The psalms model richly textured gratitude in response to God’s salvation as well as His everyday gifts and sustenance.
Paul’s Prayers of Gratitude
As shown above, Paul made gratitude central to his prayers and exhortations to the church. His letters often began with extensive prayers of thanksgiving for the people he was writing.
To the Romans he said, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world” (Romans 1:8). To the Corinthians he offered, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4).
And to the Thessalonians, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
Paul’s prayers reveal his constant spirit of thanksgiving. Every letter contains glowingly positive elements as Paul expressed his gratitude for God’s work in others. Dwelling on these spiritual virtues enlarged his gratefulness. It also encouraged the early believers as they faced persecution and trials.
Ingratitude as Sin
While gratitude features prominently as a virtue, lack of thankfulness is portrayed as a grievous sin in the Bible. Failing to thank God for His many kindnesses and acts of redemption showed a wicked and proud heart.
The apostle Paul described unbelievers in Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” This portrays ingratitude as a foundational sin.
After Jesus healed ten lepers and only one returned to thank Him, He declared in Luke 17:17-18, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Jesus equated the nine’s lack of gratitude with spiritual pride and rebellion.
When the Israelites grew restless in the wilderness, complaining about hardships rather than remembering God’s miraculous aid,
Moses rebuked them in Exodus 16:6-8, saying, “This is what the Lord commanded: Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest…And in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?”
Cultivating Greater Gratitude
Reflecting on the emphasis Scripture places on giving thanks should motivate us to cultivate deeper gratitude in our lives. Here are some simple ways we can grow in thankfulness:
- Start a gratitude journal to record prayers of thanksgiving
- Tell others about answers to prayer and times God blessed you
- Share stories with children and youth about what God has done
- Take communion with a grateful heart, remembering Christ’s sacrifice
- Replace complaining and negativity with praise and edifying speech
- Make gratitude a regular part of your prayer life
- Thank God especially in times of hardship and uncertainty
- Use your spiritual gifts to serve others in Jesus’ name
Gratitude is a defining mark of the Christian’s relationship with God. Thankfulness recognizes His constant presence and provision, His faithfulness through past generations, and His heart to redeem and shape us into Christ’s image.
Cultivating a grateful attitude opens our eyes to see and appreciate His blessings which often go overlooked.
The Bible gives us many inspirational models of gratitude. While we may not always feel an emotional sense of thankfulness, we can make the choice to trust God and offer Him praise. Doing so keeps our hearts aligned with truth – acknowledging that every good thing comes from Him.
Our Creator and Sustainer is worthy of our continual gratitude and devotion.
The more we meditate on Bible passages about gratitude, the more our minds and speech will become saturated with thankfulness.
By intentionally practicing and expressing gratitude to God and others, we can grow into people who exude the joy of the Lord that comes from an understanding of His true character. Our lives will not be marked by a spirit of entitlement, but rather profound gratefulness and worship.