Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing conversation at The King’s University about gratitude. We want to know, what are you thankful for?

What does it really mean to be thankful? There’s a thing I do that my good friend calls the “Hoover maneuver.” I like to get into a dictionary and a Strong’s Exhaustive Bible Concordance and find out what the words mean when I read through the Word of God. When we do that deep dive into the Word, God unlocks things for us. 

I’ve been thinking about the word “thanks.” What does it mean? Merriam Webster defines it as “kindly or grateful thoughts; and expression of gratitude; often used in an utterance containing no verb and serving as a courteous and somewhat informal expression of gratitude; many thanks.” 

Let’s keep digging.

The concept of giving thanks comes up in the Old Testament 102 times. In the New Testament it comes up 71 times. It’s common throughout the Bible and in our own modern daily lives. In fact, The New York Times says that it’s one of the most commonly used phrases (the average person says “thank you” approximately 2,000 times a year), but more than half the time the majority of Americans say thank you, they are uttered out of habit and they don’t really mean it. In other words, the words “thank you” can be an empty phrase. So how can we go beyond simply saying “thanks” and start living it? I want to present to you three practices of Thanks-Living.

Be Kind and Fragrant

I wanted to call this section “Be kind and smelly,” but that sounds kind of funny. Let me explain what I mean. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 says this:

“But thanks be to God! For through what Christ has done, he has triumphed over us so that now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Gospel like a sweet perfume. As far as God is concerned there is a sweet, wholesome fragrance in our lives. It is the fragrance of Christ within us, an aroma to both the saved and the unsaved all around us.”

There is a sweet wholesome fragrance in our lives. It is the Frag of Christ within us. An aroma to both the saved and unsaved all around us. What does this aroma do? Harvard Health tells us that expressing gratitude can improve your sense of well-being, lighten your mood, make your emotions more positive, and even improve your marriage.

I remember years ago I walked into a crowded store, and there was this woman standing up at the counter talking very loudly. There were lots of people standing in line waiting to be helped, and I recognized her voice. She went to my church. The words coming out of her mouth were less than thankful and less than kind. The whole room was filled with the fragrance of what she was putting off. Not kind. Not thankful. Everywhere we go, we have the opportunity to be like that lady or to leave a sweet fragrance in the room. So I want to encourage us to say thank you everywhere we go. You can make that difference just by an expression of kindness. 

Be a Grateful Receiver

The word “gratitude” is a little different than the word “thanks” because it means being appreciative of benefits you have received. This word is more relational. There is a sincerity and connection you can have with people when you demonstrate your gratitude. In the Bible I found an instance of someone giving thanks for something they didn’t deserve or expect. In Luke 17:11-19. Jesus came upon 10 lepers. Leprosy isn’t something we deal with very often in the USA. Interesting sidenote: did you know that Texas armadillos are carriers of leprosy? 

These 10 lepers call to Jesus to have mercy on them. Jesus heard them and said go show yourself to the priest. On the way, they were healed. Nine went and only one came back. I think it’s interesting because different versions of bibles all tell us that the leper who came back was yelling loudly and praising God when he recognized he had been healed. I realized that if I found out I had been healed of something incurable, how thankful would I be? Here’s what Jesus said to him. Where there 10 of you that were healed? Where are the other nine? You’re the only one who came back. It makes me wonder how often when we have been praying for something and god does it that we don’t thank him.

We were pastoring this small church years ago and didn’t have a lot of money. I know this sounds vain, but I ran out of makeup and said, “Lord I need some money for some makeup.” A couple weeks later a lady who comes to our church invited me over for a tea party. I am always down for a tea party! I got there and she had piles of skin care products and other things, and she put them all in a box and in a bag and handed it to me and said this is my gift to you. I was so appreciative that I cried. Later that day, I was still flying high from this gift that this lady had given and the Lord stopped me and said, “didn’t you ask Me for the makeup?” In that moment I remembered that prayer I had prayed and thanked Him. God cares about the little things. 

Be a Generous Giver (Extravagant Worshipper)

You might know the story of the woman in Mark 14. Jesus was having dinner in the home of Simon, whom He had healed of leprosy. This woman crashed the party and brought in an alabaster flask filled with perfume so expensive, it was equal to a year’s wages. She poured the oil over Jesus’ head and worshipped him. And everyone in the room smelled the perfume and were elated, and they fell down at Jesus’ feet and worshiped Him, right? Wrong!

They were annoyed at her expression of extravagant gratitude. However, it didn’t matter to her because she knew what Jesus meant to her. Jesus said, “Leave her alone; why berate her for doing a good thing?”

The Lord has challenged me when I worship in this season to think about who He is to me. I could tell you so many stories of times He provided for me, healed me, and saved me. I know him as Master, Savior, Healer, Provider. Let’s go beyond thanks giving in this season and let’s begin to practice thanks-living. 

Let this season be a challenge for you of thanks living in every level and practice because we have a god who can, who is, who will. I love what psalm 100:4 says: “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.”

Thanks-living is an attitude of our hearts. Don’t miss the opportunity to give Him extravagant praise for who He is in our lives!

Dr. Linda Hoover
Dr. Linda Hoover
Dr. Linda Hoover is an ordained minister and licensed clinical psychologist. She is an Assistant Professor and Program Director for the Biblical Counseling degree at The King’s University.