The Bible reveals God to be the One who creates all things, redeems all things, and maintains fellowship with those He has made. He is under no external obligation to do so, but acts as He freely and graciously chooses. In His freedom, He creates so that He can be God to His creation.. He chose to “turn towards us” and be in a relationship with us regardless of our (un)worthiness.1 He chose in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to give Himself for our sake that we might be found “holy and blameless in Him” (Ephesians 1:4). At every turn the Scriptures compel us to acknowledge our lives and existence as the generous gift from the hand of the Giver of all good and perfect gifts (James 1:17).
As created beings, God is our source and our end, or put another way: the totality of our lives are from Him and for Him. In Genesis 1-2, God creates the heavens and the earth without outside assistance or pre-existing materials. In saying that God alone is Creator, Genesis understands all of creation to be an abundant gift from God. Perhaps especially so in the case of humanity. In the creation of man, God stoops down, intimately breathing into the nostrils of Adam giving him life from His breath (Genesis 2:7). The gift of our life is nothing short of the intimate love of God, and affirmation of our dependence on Him to continually sustain us by His breath (Job 33:4).
Sin, however, warps our understanding of God, ourselves, and reality. Instead of seeing our lives as a gift which points us to the Giver, we see our lives as existing for ourselves, looking to have our needs met by created things (Romans 1:21-23). Distorted by the love of ourselves, our eyes are blinded from seeing God as He actually is: free and gracious; and our minds are made futile, unable to see ourselves as we actually are: dependent and created. As our minds are darkened and made futile by sin, we are not able to “honor him as God [and] give thanks to Him” (Romans 1:21).
Yet, in His great mercy, God gave Himself to us fully and finally in His Son, freeing us to walk by the Spirit so that we may have life and peace in Him (Romans 8:1-6). Through His Son and by His Spirit, we are made able to be who we have been created to be. That is, to be those “liv[ing] in grateful acknowledgement” of God’s gracious gift in creating and sustaining us.2 Scripture is brimming with examples of people who honor God as God and cannot help but respond in thanksgiving. The Psalmist sings of God’s great faithfulness and steadfast love as he “give[s] thanks to His name” (Psalm 138:4). Moses, Miriam, Mary and Simeon sing their songs of thanksgiving in response to the mighty deeds of God. Paul opens almost every letter with an overflow of thanksgiving for the grace of God he has experienced through Jesus Christ. In these ways and more, Scripture assumes the proper response to the presence and activity of God is only and always gratitude.
Human beings were created for the glory of God not least in their humble gratitude to Him as the Giver of their very lives (Psalms 107:21). As we enter a season of thanksgiving, may our eyes be awakened to the reality of His intimate love in our creation, preservation and redemption. In having such an awareness of His great mercies, may we with truly thankful hearts display His praise not only with our words, but in the lives that He graciously sustains.3
1. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics. the Doctrine of God (T. & T. Clark International, 2004), 101. 2. Brad East, “Grace upon Grace,” Comment Magazine, January 20, 2022, https://comment.org/grace-upon-grace/. 3. Adapted from the prayer of General Thanksgiving in the Book of Common Prayer (2019).