As discussed previously, the act of giving thanks requires that one give that thanks to someone. One person recognizes that without the other, his state would be different and lesser than it currently is. The ultimate expression of this is the Christian’s thankfulness to God, for all that he is completely depends on God. To restate the above, we have thanks going from one person to another, in this case from the Christian to God. A general good spirit of gladness and understanding that one might not have been in these favorable circumstances is really just the old saying, “it could’ve been worse,” dressed up in the latest fashions from Milan.
It’s at this point that we should expect ol’ Brother Good Guy to come in and calmly say, “Why be so serious here? You’re thinking too hard about all this. Let’s just be grateful, you know? Lighten up. Quit fussin’ about the ‘to’s’ and whatnot.”
The problem with ol’ Brother Good Guy is this: God is infinitely deserving of being intentionally thanked. The creature’s thankfulness to the Creator is in the same category as its praise and worship. Misplacement, or intentionally murkiness of these things are not acceptable. For example, biblically, believing is not the point. Believing that God raised Jesus from the dead, that is the point (Romans 10:8-10). God does not demand belief as if that is a thing in itself, but belief in something specific, namely the work of God to save sinners. Ol’ Brother Good Guy has mistaken obscurity for levity and good cheer. Christians serve a God who demands that he not be idolized via physical representation, but he has given knowledge of himself by means of revelation. He is not honored through generalized feelings of gladness. It should probably be said that though they be earthly enemies, Ol’ Brother Good Boy and The Right Reverend Wet Blanket serve the same end. They obscure the true joy that is found in God.
When the God who has done literally everything for his creation goes without recognition, this is problem that is cosmic in proportion. Virtually anyone can think of someone who has received benefit upon benefit, charity upon charity from a parent or other similar figure, only to express no gratefulness or recognition to their benefactor. Certainly the benefactor doesn’t go around demanding such a thing because this individual probably has a certain humility about him, but other observers stand offended at such a circumstance. No observer feels unjustified in so assessing the situation either. When the person who has not been recognized is God, the offense grows exponentially. Romans 1:21 says it this way: For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Not returning thanks to God is cause for the condemnation of people by God.
The general air of gladness that things aren’t worse does not honor God or give thanks. It fails to recognize him as God. At best, it reduces the act of God to faceless happy accident. That’s practical atheism, not the faith of the Bible. Thankfulness not given to God is just the civil religion of American white people, which is just a paganism that pays homage to the spirit of the last age, not God.
As we gather with whom we gather this season, recall that our thankfulness is not for things dropped to us by a secret admirer. No, our grateful hearts recognize the bridegroom, Christ Jesus who has wooed our hearts by his grace and given us all the good things we have, right down to the breath in our lungs. Our God is not silent, he has spoken to us in these last days by his Son, Jesus. We do not have to guess at his character, goodness, and promise, for the Holy Spirit has ensured we have a sure word from God in the Scriptures. Out with the spirit of the last age, or the one of this age, and in with the one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.