“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…” (Hb. 12.28)
My favorite explanation of God’s instruction, His Torah, is that it is like the instructions you might receive for your cell phone. These instructions are not arbitrary; they are not the democratic consensus of how you ought to use your phone. They are instructions provided by the designer and maker of your phone that explain how to make it work well. When they say, “do not submerge in water,” they are not trying to deprive you of using a cell phone under water; they are informing you that doing so will cause your phone to not work well.
God’s instruction similarly is not arbitrary; he is not simply trying to rob us of fun or happiness. God is saying that there are certain things that lead to human flourishing and certain things that cause us to not work well. Here is the key point: God would know; he designed us and made us. Hopefully, most of us understand and believe this; hopefully, we know that God’s instruction is both good and good for us. Our culture often fights us on this, insisting that God’s instruction is simply outdated, maybe irrelevant, or perhaps just a way to rob us of some of life’s fun.
There is at least one area where God’s word has not only found some agreement, but some pretty powerful support from the secular academic community. Gratitude, it turns out, decreases anxiety, provides a greater sense of well-being and happiness; increased energy and optimism; better health and sounder sleep; kinder behavior and higher long-term satisfaction. Now let me remind us of something— these are all the benefits to the person who gives or expresses gratitude. This rather impressive list of benefits does not even include the benefits to the recipient, which is in itself an impressive list. Gratitude is the gift that literally and measurably enriches the giver and the recipient.
In other words, perhaps unintentionally, several studies have now confirmed what most of us should already know – that obedience to God is both good and good for us. For us, Thanksgiving is not just a holiday, but a matter of obedience, something to be cultivated and practiced all year. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, we who are saved already have an immeasurably great and unshakable reason for gratitude. The God who commands gratitude for our own good also gives the firm foundation for it. So give thanks to the Lord; it is good for you, and He certainly has earned it.