Thanksgiving is the thermometer of the heart.
It was apparent from the size of the crowd and the dignitaries present that the deceased had been a prominent man. An immaculately dressed young man stood graveside and spoke eloquently of his father’s accomplishments. A short distance from the crowd two men stood listening. One was a young man in a suit, the other an elderly man in a clerical collar. The young man tightened his lips and shook his head.
“You’d think he was close to his father, but he never talked about him – it was like he didn’t exist. Now listen to him.”
“His father is safely dead now. He can afford to praise him,” replied the old cleric.
The young man glanced at his companion, but said nothing.
After the service, they walked toward the car.
“I don’t understand. He owed everything to his father, but he never thanked him, never even acknowledged him. Do you think he’s had a change of heart?”
“No,” replied the old man, “only a change of circumstance. Praise isn’t necessarily personal. You can praise in the third person from a safe distance, as you heard today. Thanks, on the other hand, is always personal.”
At the very heart of man’s sin is the fact that we are very much like the son in this story. We owe everything to our Father, yet we are unwilling to acknowledge Him and thank Him (Rom 1.21). Becoming a Christian means, among other things, correcting this deficiency. But even after we have been reconciled to our Father through Christ, our hearts remain “prone to wander . . . prone to leave the God we love.”* And when we wander, we will find ourselves more willing to praise God in the third person than we are to thank Him in the first person.
Thanksgiving is always the real thermometer of the heart. Wherever there is abundant thankfulness to God, there will be an equal amount of praise for Him, but the same cannot be said in reverse. This is why we, as God’s children, should be characterized first and foremost by thanksgiving. This is the heart of love and every other good thing. This is fullness of the Spirit and of the Word (Eph 5.18-20; Col 3.16-17). This is the heart of a Christian.
* Robert Robinson,”Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, verse 3.