Is Being Thankful Biblical, Cultural or Something We Learn From Our Parents?

November 21, 2012

Missionaries, personal faith

Thank you letters

It’s difficult to sit here the day before Thanksgiving and not be tempted to write a post about thankfulness.  Being thankful is so central to missionary fundraising, support raising, MPD – call it whatever you want – that if we ignore it we will not be successful in our ministries.

Image by vistamommy via Wikimedia Commons

If you are not a thankful person, you have no business raising money for yourself, your organization or your vision.

Is being thankful more biblical, more cultural or more learned from our familial environment?  My experiences suggest all three.

Being Thankful is a Biblical Value

Of course, thankfulness is a biblical value, and that is the primary reason that we should be thankful.  If anyone wants to debate that, let me know.  Here are 71 verses about being thankful.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.

His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1 NIV

Being Thankful is Learned from Our Parents

Regardless of our faith experience, thankfulness can be learned from our parents and others who raise us.  A world of difference exists between a thankful home and an ordinary home.  I can tell within five minutes if a person grew up in a thankful home or if their parents did not emphasize thanksgiving.

I am thankful that my godly mother taught me to be thankful.  When I was young, it seemed over the top, to say thanks for everything.  Now it is so ingrained that I can’t help but to be thankful.  That is a good thing.  I give thanks regularly and it is a part of my heart and soul.  Thanks, Mom!

Being Thankful Can Be a Cultural Value – or Not

I’ve lived in cultures where thanksgiving was not a part of the culture.  My family and I stuck out like a sore thumb.  I remember sitting in the home of our new Macedonian friends.  They served us generous hospitality and, of course, we said thank you with every spoonful of tavce-gravce, every cookie, each bite of burek and every sip of Turkish coffee.

tavce gravce – beans, onion, oil & red pepper
Image: By B K [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m exaggerating - slightly – but that is what it seemed to our hosts, who finally told us that they were offended by our thankfulness.  They thought we were being fake and overly gushy.

We had to clear up the misunderstanding and emphasize that Americans are generally thankful people.  Our years in Macedonia showed us that the peoples of the Balkans do not view thankfulness as an important value.

burek: pastry with cheese or meat
Image: By Julienbzh35 at fr.wikipedia [CC-BY-1.0], from Wikimedia Commons

No wonder Paul told the Christians of Thessaloniki:

…in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB

Being Thankful is a Must for Missionaries and All Peoples

Missionaries must be grateful for the partnerships God has raised up in prayer, finances, logistics and friendship, and we must express our thanksgiving on a regular basis.  Indeed, a grateful heart enables a whole host of other values such as peace, joy and a right perspective.

Happy Thanksgiving – today, tomorrow and every day!

“Thank you” works in almost every language but you will have to teach some people and some cultures to be thankful.

Image by Erkan Yilmaz via Wikimedia Commons

Turkish coffee, served throughout the Balkans
Image: By Tema (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

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