Published November 26, 2013

Paul's Epistle...
"Sacrifice of Thanks"

Have you ever thought about the sacrifice involved in thanksgiving? And, no, I'm not talking about the "burnt offering" that might result if the turkey gets overdone.

There are quite a few verses in Scripture that refer to a "sacrifice of thanksgiving." The Psalmist says, "I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving...." (Ps. 116:17.) The Lord says, "Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me...." (Ps. 50:23 NRSV.) "I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving..." (Ps. 116:17.)

Isn't "sacrifice" an odd word to associate with giving thanks? Normally when we think of sacrificing something we think of giving up something of value, perhaps something that we would really rather hold onto. Giving something away is no sacrifice if it costs us nothing.

Maybe "sacrifice" and "thanks" don't seem to go together because our use of "thanks" is often so shallow. The waitress hands you your bill and you say, "thanks." Someone passes the gravy: "thanks!" The clerk gives you change and you say, "thanks." It's just a custom, a nicety. It really doesn't take much effort at all. It's hard to think of this as fitting into the "sacrifice" category.

So God must want a kind of "thanks" that somehow goes far beyond this. The kind of "thanks" that He wants is a kind of "thanks" that costs us something. What could that be?

Well, the simplest thing involved here is our time. In our fast-paced society, we place a rather high value on our time. It takes time to say "thanks" to God. In other words, it takes time to pray. Perhaps that's one reason why so little praying gets done. We just don't take the time. Time's valuable. Giving some of it up can be a sacrifice. But it's a sacrifice God wants (and surely deserves).

Something else we need to give up – to sacrifice – in order properly to thank God is our pride. Ouch – this can hit close to home. To thank God properly means we are admitting to Him that we can't do it all ourselves. In fact, we can't do any of it without His help. We must see past the illusion of self-sufficiency that is so common today. We rely on Him for everything. Literally everything! That's why the Psalmist says, "The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart..." (51:17.) That's the kind of heart from which true thanksgiving can flow. That's the kind of heart that acknowledges that all we have actually comes from Him. But, oh, pride can be a difficult thing to give up — to sacrifice.

Even a simple matter of bowing one's head and "giving thanks" in a restaurant can be difficult for some Christians. It's a matter of pride, you know. Someone may be watching. And what would they think? But there's where pride must be sacrificed because God is worthy to be thanked for our food and praised for His goodness. (And it's a great silent testimony to those who are watching.)

Have you noticed that "thanks" and "praise" are very closely related? In fact, some verses rendered as "sacrifice of thanks" in one translation may be rendered "sacrifice of praise" in another. It's that close! And the two are often tied together in Scripture. For example, Psalm 106:1 says, "Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord..." God is certainly worthy of our praise. And He's just as surely worthy of our thanks.

Is there a relationship between "sacrifice" and "thanks" even if we're simply thanking someone else for doing something? Absolutely! For example, we may be thanking someone for spending their hard-earned money on something for us. That's sacrifice. We may be thanking someone for giving up something for us that otherwise would be their own, such as time.

God is very attuned to sacrifice. After all, the Father sacrificed His only Son on the cross for sinners, "for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself." (Hebrews 7:27.) How can we not be thankful? And Paul, writing in Romans 12:1, calls strongly on believers to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service."

This Thanksgiving – and, for that matter, always – thank God in all things. But make it mean something. Sacrifice your time, your pride, your illusions of self-sufficiency. Make it a true "sacrifice of thanks."

"...let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name..." (Hebrews 13:15.)

- Paul

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