In Everything Give Thanks”

Mike Johnson

I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks. . . .”  This teaching is given in the midst of a series of short admonitions near the end of the book of I Thessalonians.  Earlier, Paul had told them that they needed to “rejoiced always,” and that they were to “pray without ceasing.”  It can be said that “a constant joy and a constant prayer should lead to a constant giving of thanks to God

The Bible stresses thanksgiving in many places.  Ephesians 5:20, says, “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  In Colossians 4:2 Paul stressed, “Continue in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.”  In another passage, Philippians 4:6, he said, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything in prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

It is clear that we are to be thankful, but how are we to be thankful in everything?  The NIV says, “give thanks in all circumstances.” How do we do this?  The verse is not teaching that we are to give thanks specifically for every particular thing which happens.  Instead, the idea is that we are to continue to be thankful no matter what the circumstances, and in every circumstance, we can find things to be thankful for.

Consider the following situation.  A man’s house burns.  He does not say, “I am glad that my house burned.”  Instead, he says, “I continue to be thankful to God even though my house burned.”  Furthermore, he is able to say, “Although my house burned, I am thankful that I was not in it when it burned, and that it did not catch the house of someone else on fire.”  We remain thankful to God no matter what happens, and in every bad situation we can see things to be thankful for (note also James 1:2-3, Rom. 5:3).

Matthew Henry, the well known scholar, was once robbed by thieves of his money.  In his diary he wrote, “Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

We need to make sure that we are “thankful in everything.”  The last part of verse 18s says, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  We must understand that it is God’s Will that we obey these instructions.  Are you “thankful in everything?”