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Language Studies

Greek Thoughts

To give thanks, to be grateful, to return thanks

"In everything be giving thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (Literal Translation)

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, many believers will focus their time and attention upon giving thanks for the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon them. In light of this, it would be beneficial for us to understand the thoughts embodied within the Greek words used in Scripture in connection with giving thanks.

The verb form for "giving thanks" is εὐχαριστὲω (Strong's #2168), which means not only to express thanks and gratitude, but also to return thanks. It is a compound word coming from the adverb εὖ (Strong's # 2095), which means "to do well, to be well off, to prosper" and χαρὶζομαι (Strong's #5483), which means "to give freely, to give in favor toward, to forgive." The root word of χαρὶζομαι is χὰρις (Strong's #5485) which is the Greek word for "grace." From these root words, we can glean three principles about giving thanks.

First, giving thanks to God for Him being God is an important principle. The Greek verb εὐχαριστὲω is mentioned 39 times in the New Testament, and all but one of these Scriptures has to do with giving thanks to God. In Romans 1:21 Paul mentions that those who reject God do so, "because having known God, they did not glorify Him as God nor were they thankful; but became vain in their reasonings, and their heart without understanding was darkened" (Literal Translation). The Greek construction of this verse expresses two things; they failed to glorify God for being God, and they were not thankful to Him for being God. Being thankful, then, as expressed in the New Testament, is described as an expression of gratitude to God for being God.

Second, the Greek verb conveys the understanding that the giving of thanks is a response to the grace of the Lord, not something one tries to practice through human effort. We give thanks (εὐχαριστὲω) in response to His grace (χὰρις), which is first ministered to us. Εὐχαριστὲω embodies the same understanding given as applied to love in 1 John 4:19, "We ourselves love Him, because He Himself first loved us." (Literal Translation.) God loves and gives grace first, then we respond in love and thanksgiving. In addition, we know that the more we are exposed to God's love, the more we love Him in return. This is also true of being exposed to God's grace; the more we are exposed to His grace upon us, the more we give thanks in return.

The third principle is that our response of giving thanks to the Lord is based upon experiencing the sufficiency of His grace being ministered to us. This is because χαριστὲω (giving of thanks) comes from the word χὰρις which means "grace." We see the sufficiency of God's grace being poured out upon Paul in where Paul says that he prayed three times to have his thorn in the flesh removed. The Lord answers, as recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you." We see from this example, that the Lord ministers His grace upon His people and His grace provides the sufficiency for every occasion, even the most difficult ones.

God's grace enables us to give thanks in spite of our circumstances because in every situation God, with all of His attributes, in the full glory of His nature, is ministering His all-sufficient grace to us; in response, we love Him and give thanks from a grateful heart. The more we experience all that God is, His sufficiency, His provision for us in Jesus Christ, the more our love for Him grows; the more giving thanks becomes a natural part of our expression back to Him.

"In everything be giving thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (Literal Translation)

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