Thanks: A Word Study

I realized on Thursday that I’ve never studied out the words “thanks” or “thanksgiving,” so I decided to do a word study to find out what the Bible says about giving thanks. (All quotations are from the ESV.) I haven’t studied many of these passages in depth, so this is just a general survey. Here’s a rough outline of what I’ve learned.

General commands to give thanks

Replace evil speaking with giving thanks

Ephesians 5:3-5

3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Instead of being anxious, pray and give thanks.

Philippians 4:5-7

5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Be thankful.

Colossians 3:14-16

14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Pray and give thanks.

Colossians 4:2

2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving

See also Thessalonians 5:17-19.

Pray and give thanks for those in authority over you.

1 Timothy 2:1-2

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

Remain faithful and continually give thanks.

Colossians 2:6-7

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Not giving thanks is a sin.

Romans 1:20-22

20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools.

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Things I’m Thankful For

Spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3-4)

1. The Gospel–I’m thankful for salvation through Christ Jesus and that He continues to save me from my sins (I Cor. 15:1-3). I’m thankful for a renewed understanding of and appreciation for the Gospel.

2. God’s grace and mercy–Except for God’s grace, I would be lost in my sin (Eph. 2:8-9). Except for God’s grace, I would have no interest in spiritual things or have any growth in godliness at all.

3. God’s Word–The Bible is alive, powerful, and able to change lives (Heb. 4:12, II Timothy 3:16)

4. God’s forgiveness–Because of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, I have been forgiven and justified before God (Romans 3:25-27).


1. My parents–I am thankful my parents were saved before I was born. They raised me in a godly family, encouraged me to love and serve God, sacrificed for a Christian school education, and led by example.

2. My brothers, Nate, Ben, and Zeke–My brothers are all living for the Lord and serving Him in their respective vocations. I’m thankful Nate and Ben both married godly women who love them and edify them. I’m thankful for Zeke, who is working hard in school to become a Marine Corps officer and hopefully a pilot; his discipline and dedication are an inspiration to me. (He’s also a marathoner.)

3. My niece, McKenna–McKenna is such a special little girl and I’m so thankful that the Lord miraculously protected her during her birth and preserved her life. I can’t wait to meet her (hopefully this summer!).


1. The Filipiaks and Abels–Both of these families invited me to spend Thanksgiving with them, and I enjoyed the time of fellowship and relaxation with them.

2. Friends on Guam–Elizabeth, Karen, Leah, Julie and so many others challenge me to think biblically and are a constant source of encouragement to me.

3. Friends in distant places–Jenni, Dawn, Jodi, Joanna–Even if communication is sporadic or infrequent, these friends have kept in touch and encourage me from afar. Each one challenges me in specific ways and have been such a help and blessing to me.

4. My students–While not friends, my students don’t fit in any other category . . . I’m thankful for the many things I’ve learned from my students and I’m thankful for the privilege of teaching them. God has used my students to teach me many lessons.

Common graces

1. Books–I love to read almost any type of writing: fiction, poetry, Christian living, history, political science, economics, science. Books are so comforting and edifying.

2. Music–I love music of all kinds. I enjoy listening to the same song over and over, analyzing each line of harmony and accompaniment (weird, I know). I like analyzing the words and philosophy of a song. I’m thankful for the things I’ve learned about God and man through listening to music.

3. The internet–I’m thankful for this means of communicating God’s Truth, of interacting with friends, and even seeing family and friends who are tens of thousands of miles away.

4. Coffee and tea–There’s nothing like curling up with a good book and a warm beverage for a relaxing afternoon.

5. Sleep–I don’t get enough of this, but I’m thankful for what I do get!

A Thanksgiving Psalm

I read this psalm this morning and was struck by all the situations the psalmist recounts and God’s faithfulness in each. The Lord delivers people from all kinds of distress: physical peril in deserts and ships, lack of food, water, or shelter; emotional pain when alone or when contemplating death; and spiritual emptiness when longing for the Lord or rebelling against Him.

I don’t think I’d ever noticed the repetition and the kind of stanza/refrain format before. I italicized each repetition and highlighted verses that stood out to me.

Psalm 107 (English Standard Version)

1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever!

2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,

whom he has redeemed from trouble

3 and gathered in from the lands,

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastes,

finding no way to a city to dwell in;

5 hungry and thirsty,

their soul fainted within them.

6 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

7 He led them by a straight way

till they reached a city to dwell in.

8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,

for his wondrous works to the children of man!

9 For he satisfies the longing soul,

and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,

prisoners in affliction and in irons,

11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,

and spurned the counsel of the Most High.

12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;

they fell down, with none to help.

13 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,

and burst their bonds apart.

15 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,

for his wondrous works to the children of man!

16 For he shatters the doors of bronze

and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,

and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;

18 they loathed any kind of food,

and they drew near to the gates of death.

19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

20 He sent out his word and healed them,

and delivered them from their destruction.

21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,

for his wondrous works to the children of man!

22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,

and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,

doing business on the great waters;

24 they saw the deeds of the LORD,

his wondrous works in the deep.

25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,

which lifted up the waves of the sea.

26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;

their courage melted away in their evil plight;

27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men

and were at their wits’ end.

28 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

29 He made the storm be still,

and the waves of the sea were hushed.

30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,

and he brought them to their desired haven.

31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,

for his wondrous works to the children of man!

32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,

and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33 He turns rivers into a desert,

springs of water into thirsty ground,

34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,

because of the evil of its inhabitants.

35 He turns a desert into pools of water,

a parched land into springs of water.

36 And there he lets the hungry dwell,

and they establish a city to live in;

37 they sow fields and plant vineyards

and get a fruitful yield.

38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,

and he does not let their livestock diminish.

39 When they are diminished and brought low

through oppression, evil, and sorrow,

40 he pours contempt on princes

and makes them wander in trackless wastes;

41 but he raises up the needy out of affliction

and makes their families like flocks.

42 The upright see it and are glad,

and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;

let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.


I had a very relaxing Thanksgiving. The break started when we got out of school early on Wednesday. We had a special dress up day and fundraiser for the senior trip called Pilgrim and Indian Day. Many students wore costumes and the teachers got a free lunch if we wore an outfit too. It’s a lot of fun. Some of the teachers go all out with their creative get-up.

On Thanksgiving Day, I got up relatively early (especially since both my roommates were still asleep–that usually doesn’t happen!) and made sweet potato casserole. Last year I learned to put a pan underneath the sweet potatoes so they don’t explode and ooze all over the stove, and this year I learned to put tin foil over the pan so my roommate doesn’t have to spend all night scrubbing the pan (sorry, Kelly!). I also learned to buy sweet potatoes early so I don’t have to use 20 minuscule ones instead of 6 big ones. The casserole turned out really well, though, and everybody loved it.

Dinner at Doug and Karen Abel’s house was special as usual. Karen does a fantastic job of organizing the food and displaying it in a pleasing way. After dinner Doug led in a testimony and song time. There were several HBBI students at the dinner and they love to sing! It is always a lot of fun to sing with them. This is a picture of my two HBBI “daughters,” Youlean and Sincer.

Later that afternoon my roommates and I headed down to Agat where we were going to stay overnight with the Webbers, a couple from Harvest that was housesitting at a beautiful home by the ocean. We were hoping to see a beautiful sunset, but unfortunately, it was raining out at sea and the sky was cloudy and gray. Just being by the ocean was relaxing, though, and we enjoyed talking with the Webbers and another family that was visiting for the day.

We stayed in the guest house, which had two bedrooms, a bathroom (which had a serene face painted on one entire wall!), a living room and a kitchen. We slept in, read our Bibles, and then watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Mrs. Webber spoiled by bringing us coffee and breakfast. After a leisurely breakfast, we went kayaking out on the ocean and looked at the coral through the clear canoe Elizabeth and Kelly used. I loved trying to catch the waves as we rode back in. We stayed at the Webber’s until late afternoon. By the time we got back to Agana, we could tell there was going to be a beautiful sunset that night! Oh, well. We had a great time on the beautiful, clear day-after-Thanksgiving.