Scripture is filled with calls for us to lift worship and lavish praise upon God. When we realize that God himself commands this worship, it’s possible to have a sort of resistance. Isn’t it manipulative for someone to give us gifts and then tell us what they require of us in response? Aren’t we supposed to love and to give unconditionally?
On the one hand, we can say that God makes it rain on the just and the unjust. In that sense, it is unconditional. But on the other, we are called to thank God for every gift. In fact, the refusal to thank God is seen as evidence of a reprobate mind! (see Rom 1:21) We all remember receiving socks at Christmas from our aunt and being required to say “thank you.” Not only were we not thankful for the gift, we felt manipulated and even violated by being forced to give thanks for a gift we did not want from a person we barely knew!
There may be some hints here. First of all, God has given us more than socks. In fact, “every good and perfect gift” is from the hand of God. Once I grasp this truth, I not only want to thank God, I am glad he has commanded me to do so!
Perhaps an example can help. Think about what happens when people begin to sense that life’s good gifts somehow come from deity. What is the response? Worship! Or at least some form of it. Humans offer worship to deity as they conceive deity perhaps not primarily in thanksgiving, but to evoke the response of continued giving. This worship can range from benign (bowing to sun, moon, totem poles) to deadly (human sacrifice). Misguided worship is not trivial. Wouldn’t it be great if somehow we knew the right response to the great giver?
A few years back my wife and I were given a splendid gift. We never could have afforded it and probably would never have even dreamed of wanting such a gift. It was simply beyond us in every way! To this day, we have pleasant memories of it. It literally blesses our lives constantly and will continue to do so. Let me emphasize: we could never have afforded this gift. We did nothing to deserve it. We can never repay it.
So how do we respond? We say “thank you.” We write a note. But we’ve done that for socks at Christmas that we didn’t want or like. It feels like we should do more for this amazing gift. The problem is that we cannot think of any proper way to express our thankfulness.
Please understand. I do not mean this next statement as criticism.
It literally would have been helpful for us had the giver told us how to respond. Surely the giver knew that we could never have had this wonderful experience but for this gracious act. Surely the giver knew we would be stumped on what to say or do in response. The one additional thing that the giver could have been done would have been to detail how we should respond.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to the giver’s house to sacrifice one of my children in the yard. I’m feeling no urges to step into the moonlight and perform ritualistic incantations. But at times I feel awkward around the giver because I still feel our response has been inadequate.
God has given me life. He’s healed my body numerous times. He’s blessed me with a wife and children far beyond my worth. I’m at a church that I love so much it brings a lump to my throat to think of ever leaving them. He’s raised me from depressions. He made kittens!
I’m so glad that on top of that he has told me what to do:
“With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:6-8)
Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with my God.
Thank you God, not only for everything you’ve done, but for telling me how to thank you.