Is there a difference between “being thankful” and “giving thanks”?
I think there is.
I believe the difference more than semantics. These are not just two ways of saying the same thing. One is simply a statement of fact. The other is an action. One is about me and my perception of life. The other is a response to that perception. One can be solitary, but the other requires another person.
When I say “I’m thankful” what do I mean?
I believe that for many, being thankful is not much more than acknowledging their satisfaction with the way things are. Or maybe relief that things have not played out in some other less desirable way. Being thankful may be something akin to being pleased with how life looks and feels at the moment. But it often sounds like a luck-of-the-draw scenario, contingent on life going well.
Being thankful is certainly better than its ugly alternatives—a sense entitlement, insatiable greed, the numbness of apathy. Thankfulness slows the relentless pursuit of more. It doesn’t stop it, but at least it creates moments of pause that allow us to catch our breath and consider life as it is. Being thankful is a way of appreciating what we have while we have it.
But as a one who has been redeemed, being thankful isn’t enough. It can’t just end there.
The Scriptures tell me that every good thing and every perfect gift is from my Heavenly Father (James 1:17). In other words, I know the source of every thing I enjoy in this life. I know the One who takes cares of me and provides for my deepest needs. I have someone to thank. I believe that failure to do so would be to snub the Giver and diminish what He has given.
Giving thanks acknowledges that what I enjoy has a source other than me—that it’s more than dumb luck or hard work that have brought good things into my life. My perception is shortsighted or myopic if I fail to recognize the hand of the Provider. However, if I see life correctly, my perception demands expression. Giving thanks is simply being honest. It’s a merciful act of humility in which I put words to my thankfulness and offer them to the only one worthy of hearing them.
On Thanksgiving Day, there will be many who are thankful.
There will be far fewer who are thanks-givers.