While I was preparing my heart to give thanks during last month’s Thanksgiving festivities, I kept stumbling across the phrase “sacrifice of thanksgiving” in God’s Word.
At first, I assumed the term described a specific sacrifice required by the people of Israel during more regulated religious times. And there is an element of that found in Scripture. But overall, a “sacrifice of thanksgiving” and its counterpart a “sacrifice of praise” seem to be something God is still asking for from us today:
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High.” (Ps. 50:14)
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.” (Ps. 50:23a)
“I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.” (Ps. 116:17)
“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of the lips that acknowledge his name.” (Heb. 13:15)
Thanksgiving doesn’t really seem like a sacrifice at first glance. But clearly, the Bible isn’t talking about a date on the calendar or a meal with stuffing and mashed potatoes. These verses are about an attitude. Boil thanksgiving down to its essence and it is really about bowing our hearts before God. It’s about approaching Him and saying, “I realize what I have comes from You, and I’m so glad You’ve given it to me.” Thanksgiving requires humility. It requires that we recognize our small and feeble place in the order of God’s big world.
Praise is the same way. If we think of praise as something we do on Sunday mornings when the worship band really gets keyed up and our emotions start to swell, that doesn’t require much sacrifice. But if praise is a state of acknowledging how big God is, especially in relation to how small we are . . . well, that does require a sacrifice of self-importance, self-focus, and self-worship.
On a more practical level, thanksgiving and praise require a sacrifice of time. Somehow, it seems to require less time to rattle off a list of requests to God than it does to stop, thank Him, and let that thanksgiving burst into praise.
I’m starting to see why the Bible describes thanksgiving as a sacrifice. But, no doubt, it is a sacrifice worth making. God is certainly worthy of our thanks and praise. He has given us every minute of every day, so devoting time to gratitude toward Him isn’t really a sacrifice at all. And bowing our hearts and turning our eyes away from our own circumstances may feel painful at first, but it is really the best way to see beyond the troubles of our day.
This is a busy season. It can be easy for all of us to miss the big stuff in favor of all the little things on our to-do lists. But make the sacrifices necessary to give thanks to God this week. I’d love to hear about it. What has God done for you lately that moves you toward thanksgiving?