No, the title of today’s devotion does not contain a typo. Yes, I meant to write “It’s Time for Thinksgiving.” I realize that sounds rather strange. So please allow me to explain.
In English, “thank” sounds rather like “think,” and this is not just a coincidence. Anatoly Liberman, a world-renowned linguist wrote an article for the Oxford University Press blog called, “On Giving Thought and Giving Thanks.” In this article he observes,
“Engl. think and thank sound alike, and their similarity is not fortuitous. In Germanic, the story begins with the verb thankjan ‘to think’ (not ‘thank’!)… Apparently, thank referred to a feeling of gratitude inspired by thought: one thought of some action and expressed one’s appreciation of it. In Modern English, the noun can be used only in the plural (thanks!), but in earlier periods the singular was common and meant “thought; kindly thought,” ‘favor, gratitude,’ and ‘expression of gratitude.’ In sum, the more you thought of something, the more thankful (grateful) you were for what had been done for you.”
So, both “think” and “thank” come from the same etymological root. They’re linguistic cousins, if you will.
What we learn from the etymology of “think” and “thank” makes sense in light of our experience. We often experience gratitude as a result of our reflection. And when we fail to reflect, ingratitude is a common result.
Suppose somebody at work does something extra to help you with a particularly pressing project. If you’re too preoccupied to think about what your colleague has done for you, you might very well fail to thank them for their support.
But if you stop and reflect, you will likely feel grateful and express your gratitude by thanking your colleague. Thinking and thanking go hand in hand, often with thinking leading the way.
We see an example of this in Psalm 107, which begins by urging us to express gratitude to God: “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good” (107:1, ESV).
The following 42 verses of the psalm give ample reasons to be thankful. The psalm writer is reflecting on what God has done, moving naturally from reflection to expressions of gratitude.
For example, verses 4-9 describe how people wandering lost in the wilderness cried out to the Lord, who led them to civilization and fed them with good things.
The psalmist exhorts those people: “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love” (107:8, ESV). Thinking about what God has done leads to thanking God for God’s wonderful works.
Those of us who live in the U.S. will be celebrating the national holiday of Thanksgiving this coming Thursday.
Theoretically, this is “a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” At least that’s what Abraham Lincoln wrote when he proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863.
For many of us, however, Thanksgiving Day is filled with cooking, traveling, eating turkey, watching the Macy’s Parade or football on TV, and hanging out with relatives and friends. The day is so full that we have little time for thinking that leads to thanking.
If you can make time on Thursday for reflection and gratitude, that’s great. By all means do it. But if you’re anticipating a busy Thursday, let me suggest that you find another time this week for reflection.
Think about your life and your blessings. Think about how God has been gracious to you, especially during this past year.
Let your thinking lead you to thanking. By all means, thank God for the gifts you’ve received. But you may also want to thank people who have made a difference in your life.
Nothing warms the heart on Thanksgiving Day more than expressions of gratitude. Yes, gratitude brings even more joy than steaming turkey!
This article appeared originally on The High Calling.