Thinking About Gratitude

Bible Verses About Gratitude

[Majority of article originally published on Helium 14 August 2012]

What is the opposite of gratitude?  Perhaps you have heard it is selfishness, and that seems somewhat true.  Perhaps you have heard it is envy.  This rings even more true, but when I think of envy, I more often think of it as the opposite of generosity.  How about discontentment?  I think we have a winner!

Complaining, discontentment and murmuring were all traits that ancient Israel displayed after they were led out of Egypt.  It eventually led to outright rebellion – an attitude of the enemy – and blocked them from entering the Promised Land.

How to find peace, love and joy in tumultous circumstances?  Gratitude.  Being appreciative.  Focusing on what to be thankful for.  Asking for more of the Spirit. Reaching for the Bible and reading more about gratitude and thanskgiving.

There are many verses in the Bible about gratitude.  However, if you are using the King James Version (KJV), you won’t find the word “gratitude” in it.  However, do word search for “thank”, and will come up with 134 results.  Some of these results may surprise you.  What should a Christian give thanks for and when?

Naturally, thanks and praise is to be offered during worship and prayer.  The Old Testament Law on sacrifices has a special type of offering for thanksgiving.  In Samuel 22 is the first Davidic psalm of thanksgiving because of God’s deliverance from King Saul.  Jesus started the model prayer (aka, “The Lord’s Prayer”) with praise by saying, “Hallowed be thy name.” (Mt 6:9)

When someone says “giving thanks,” it is often in the context of saying a prayer of thanks before a meal.  Jesus led by example, often giving thanks before eating with his disciples (Jn 6:11Lk 24:30).

However, the first instance of a variation of the word “thank” outside of thank offerings isn’t even someone thanking God.  Rather, it is Joab giving thanks to David (2Sa 14:22).  Joab was the commander of David’s troops, but he hardly gave a good example.  While he was very loyal to David, his story is not a story of an upright person.  Yet, he knew enough to give thanks when thanks were due.

It should be no surprise then to see Paul’s letters were filled with thankfulness for the brethren (2Ti 1:3Ep 1:15-171Co 1:3-4).  Considering the attitude of accentuating the positive attributes of others, as Paul wrote in Php 4:8, it would have been natural for such positive thoughts to have overflowed and become expressed outwardly toward others.

So far, none of this is particularly controversial, though.  Certainly, an attitude of gratitude requires a person to stay on top of his or her thoughts even in the best of circumstances.  However, gratitude isn’t to just be displayed when times are good!  No, the Bible is quite clear that gratitude is to be displayed at all times.

And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever…”

~ Rev 4:8-9

Surrounding the throne that John described in the Book of Revelation were various types of beings offering praise and worship continuously without ceasing.  A huge part of that continuous worship is giving thanks to God Almighty, and the gratitude they show is specifically pointed out.  This should be symbolic of the type of continuous gratitude toward God that the Christian should have.

As already stated, prayer should be filled with thankfulness.  Paul instructs Christians to pray without ceasing (1Th 5:17).  It follows, therefore, that gratitude should be unceasing as well.

Furthermore, the very next verse tells the Christian to “give thanks in everything.” (1Th 5:18 HCSB)  One of the hardest and sometimes most controversial aspects of Christianity in general is the instruction to be thankful even in the hardest of circumstances.

On the Grace To You website is a sermon, dtd 28 April 1991, titled, “Giving Thanks in Everything”.  It points out that it is by the power of the Spirit a Christian does these things (Php 2:13).  It goes on to say, “Those who are members of the body of Christ then are to be characterized by unceasing joy, prayer and thanksgiving. That’s common. That’s normal. That’s routine because we should be filled with the Spirit as a matter of the course of life.”

In contrast, the unbelievers do not give thanks to God and become fools as a result of a darkened heart (Ro 1:21).  In addition, Paul lists “unthankful” as a prevailing attitude of the world in the “last days” (2Ti 3:1-2), and Christians are instructed to not be conformed to this world (Ro 12:2).  This should be a warning for Christians to not allow their hearts to become darkened through ingratitude.

This is why Christians are told to rejoice even in times of trials and sufferings.

We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.

~ Ro 5:2-4 (HCSB)

What is there to be thankful for in trials?  As Paul wrote, it is because the end result is godly character of such strength and intensity as to produce hope.  A Christian is to be a light to the world, and doing that requires hope beyond the circumstances that can be physically seen.

The Bible does not say to be thankful for the trials specifically, but it does say to be thankful in the trials.  However, when one considers that the end result is the development of godly character, perhaps it is good to be thankful for that result – even before it is evident.  Faith is seeing what cannot yet be seen (Heb 11:1), and what is more difficult to see than the end result of trials?

It should be obvious from these Scriptures, then, that the Christian is to be filled with gratitude and appreciation at all times, without ceasing and in spite of trials.  A Christian should demonstrate the faith necessary to be thankful not only for what is present but of that which will come.

This faith and gratitude are not the result of human endeavors or worked up within the human spirit, but it must be granted by the Holy Spirit just as other fruits of the Spirit are. (Gal 5:22-23)  However, the Christian can come before the throne of God Almighty and ask for more of the Spirit. (Lk 11:11-13)  Even that privilege is something for which an appreciative Christian should offer gratitude.


  1. Sometimes it seems like I spend half my time running around, beating down one brush fire after the next. I start thinking, “what next?”

    I’m trying to change my attitude. People rely on me, so maybe I should be thankful for it. Play the theme song from the old TV show, “Peter Gun,” in my head when something crops up.

    I don’t mean to sound selfish. I like being useful to other people, but it gets a little too much at times. Bottom line, fulfill my duty. Whatever it takes.

    • Big Red – Sometimes I feel the same way, thinking to myself, “what next?” I can’t remember where I read it, but I recently came across a statement about how one’s perspective changes when you rephrase “I have to do xyz” to “I get to do xyz.” As overwhelmed as I can be at times, I really try to remain thankful to God that I’m still able to walk, drive, lift heavy things without pain, and so on . . . thankful that I am able to be of service to others.

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