Now and then, it needs to be said that not all thanksgiving is thanksfeeling. We can make ourselves (or our children) say “Thank you” whether we feel it or not. But it’s not a good habit, especially in relation to God.
Jesus warns against “vain” worship. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me” (Matthew 15:8–9). Thanksgivingwithout thanksfeeling is empty. It does not count with God.
An Act of the Heart
Genuine thankfulness is an act of the heart’s affections, not an act of the lips’ muscles. It is not willed, but awakened. It is not a decision of the will, but a reflex of the heart. It happens to us. We become aware of good will toward us, and either we feel gratitude or we are ungrateful.
It is not an inference; it is an experience. If the response of our lips is a mere logical deduction, it’s not heart-thankfulness. (Premise 1: Someone is willing my good. Premise 2: One should say thanks in such situations. Conclusion: I will cause my lips to say thanks.)
Now let’s relate this to the glory of God the way the Bible does.
To the Glory of God
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” (Psalm 50:23). This offering of thanksgiving that glorifies God is not merely external. It is gratitude truly felt in the heart. That is the only kind of sacrifice that pleases him.
“You will not delight in sacrifice … you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:16–17). This is the kind of heart that can truly feel gratitude for grace.
John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, where he first sensed God’s call to enter the ministry. For 6 years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing number of grandchildren. (By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: DesiringGod.org) More from John Piper or visit John at http://www.desiringgod.org