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Give thanks “with heart and hands and voices”

Thanksgiving is so much more than a holiday. It involves our whole life. Martin Rinckart described this nicely in his familiar hymn: “Now thank we all our God With heart and hands and voices” (TLH #36).

Our Voices

Thanksgiving certainly involves our voices. We say “thank you.” We sing songs of thanksgiving. Our mouth speaks the praises of our great God for His bountiful goodness.

However, words of praise not coming from the heart are not pleasing to God. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees who “honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”

True thanksgiving comes from the heart. When our heart is full of thankfulness to God, our mouth will sing His praise. Just as King David says: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him” (Ps. 28:7).

Our Heart

A heart filled with thankfulness seeks even more ways to express itself.

How many times have you received such a great gift or service of love that you felt that saying “Thank you!” just wasn’t enough? Words simply cannot fully express our thanks and gratitude.

So we seek to express our thanks with our actions and deeds. If that is true when others do things for us, how much more isn’t it true because of all that God has done?

God has given us life and every physical blessing. He has given us an abundance of food and fine clothes, a warm, comfortable home to live in, and so many riches to enjoy. He has given us family and friends. He heals our illnesses. He comforts, encourages, and builds us up. He is a constant and faithful Friend and Father.

These things in themselves are worthy of all our praise and thanksgiving, yet they are the least of God’s good blessings. In His infinite love He has given His own Son for us. Jesus has rescued us from eternal death by suffering death in our place and has given us eternal life. “He became poor so that (we) through His poverty might become rich”–eternally and heavenly rich.

Everything–from our daily bread to our eternal salvation–is given purely by God’s grace to us undeserving sinners. Mere words are totally inadequate to express our thanks to God who has given us everything.

We can never repay God for His goodness and grace, but we do seek every way to express our thanks to Him. That is why we also want to employ our hands in giving thanks.

Our Hands

The apostle Paul urges us: “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). Thanking God with our hands really involves our whole life and everything we do. We want to give our body and life into His service.

We can express our thanksgiving by our works of service in the church and in the home. Our work, no matter how menial, will not seem like a burden, but a joy, if we think of it as our expression of thanks to our gracious God.

Bringing fresh flowers for the altar, cooking and cleaning, visiting the sick, serving one another in love–these can all be meaningful expressions of thanksgiving to our God. Our financial offerings to church and sharing our blessings with the less fortunate are also ways we can use our hands in giving thanks.

So when there is any need, or work to be done, at home or at church, let us not think of it as something we have to do because nobody else will. Rather, let us see it as an opportunity to use our hands to give thanks to the God who has given us absolutely everything.

Having a day of Thanksgiving may remind us to say “thank you” to God. But only seeing God’s abundant grace and blessings in His Word and sacraments will fill our heart with true thankfulness–a thankfulness we express with our hands and our voices. Not only on Thanksgiving Day, but every day.

As King David says: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1).

–Pastor David Reim