We say, ‘thank you,’ when someone gives us something; it’s an acknowledgement of our need and another’s generosity. When you give thanks, you are admitting that you are now better off – someone has filled your vacancy. This does not mean that you were incapable of mowing your own lawn, for example, but that your neighbor did it for you because you were overwhelmed that week – it was an act of service to you that made your life a little more manageable.
I thank God that he is not like me. He is never put into a state-of-affairs where he needs a little help to manage things. He does not need to say thanks because he has no need of support, generosity, or a helping hand. He is self-sufficient in every way. He brings things into existence with no prior need for raw material (Gen 1:1). He is not to be served as though he needed anything – but it is everything and everyone else that is in need of him (Acts 17:24-25). If everyone did his duty towards God with absolute perfection, there still would be no obligation for God to say thank you (Luke 17:9).
Now this does not mean that God is unappreciative. He is a happy and rewarding God who will say “atta boy” to all who persevere to the end, to those who remain faithful to follow the Lord (Matt. 25:21). In this way, we are like him: when we see good work we praise it and show our pleasure and approval. But this is not the same thing as saying thanks. I’m not splitting hairs: saying “thanks” and saying “good job ” are not the same. What difference does all this make for our Thanksgiving Holiday?
1. I am reminded how needy I am and how generous God is to me.
2. I am reminded that God can’t ever be lacking in any way. This is good news because God can’t ever be exhausted! He is endless and infinite in mercy, love, and grace. There will never come a time when he is running low on supplies. There will never be a circumstance by which he is flummoxed and needs some counsel and advice from you or me. God will never experience helplessness, but . . .
Since Jesus was both God and Man, Jesus knows our need because he chose to live a life in need. He gave his Father thanks for hiding and revealing the truth to whomever he chose (Matt. 11:25-26), and Jesus thanked his Father for food (John 6:11). And this means,
3. Our Father in heaven will always empathize with our need. Though he knows no need within himself, yet, he knows my need, for he lived it (Heb. 4:14-16). Our Father in heaven does not feel imposed upon when we keep coming to him, as if he wants us to just buck up and be more self-reliant. No, he calls us to keep asking, seeking, and knocking, for he knows our need. The problem is that we don’t know how helpless we truly are – this is why we struggle with thanking him: we are prideful in our false world of self-reliance. But how much sweeter life is when we know who we are in the face of a selfless God!
This is why I thank the Lord that he does not need to give thanks.