There’s power in words because they can communicate what’s happening in our hearts. “I love you,” is a phrase that comes to mind because it tells someone that they are a special person whom we hold dear. But there are lots of other words that convey important truths: peace, joy, and hope, are a few that offer substantial insight into our inner world.
Thanks is another one of those words. When spoken to others it acknowledges some kind of help or assistance that has been given. It recognizes a contribution that has been made. It is an inherent admission that no one goes it alone in this world. We are all part of something bigger and we need each other.
Thanks in reference to God says all of this and more. At its deepest level, it confesses how good God has been to us. He has blessed us in every way. Words alone can’t repay this but then repayment isn’t the issue (that’s impossible)—gratitude is. To be grateful is to turn our face toward our Father and bow our head in humility and awe of His goodness.
To be ungrateful is a serious crime with devastating consequences. If you haven’t read Romans 1:18ff in a while, let me challenge you to spend a few moments in the text. Three times Paul speaks of God giving people over to “sinful desires,” (v. 24), “shameful lusts,” (v. 26), and “a depraved mind,” (v. 28).
Does that have your attention? Why did He do this? Idolatry is the immediate answer (v. 22-23,25), but the instigating cause of it all was . . . ingratitude. “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,” (v. 21). Paul goes on to say that because of this, “their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened,” (v. 21). It’s all downhill once ingratitude takes hold in our life. It is the gateway to every kind of wickedness and depravity (v. 29ff). This explains a lot about our culture as well as other cultures and civilizations that have come and gone before us. When people lose sight of God and His blessings, spiritual decay and rot inevitably set in.
But there’s good news here as well. At the heart of worship is the grateful heart. It bonds us to our Father. There aren’t too many things that can’t be cured by a grateful heart. “Sing to the Lord with grateful praise . . .” (Psalm 147:7).