“Show Yourselves Thankful”
“Let the peace of the Christ control in your hearts . . . And show yourselves thankful.”—COLOSSIANS 3:15.
1. Against what must Christians be on guard in this thankless world?
THIS troubled 20th century has reached the stage where many people have forgotten how to be thankful. The appreciative words “please” and “thank you” are heard less frequently with each passing year. Unthankfulness has become part of “the air,” the selfish spirit that dominates people of this world. (Ephesians 2:1, 2) Though Christians are “no part of the world,” they must live in it as long as the present system of things exists. (John 17:11, 16) Therefore, they must take care that this thankless spirit does not rub off on them, causing their thankfulness to diminish.
2. (a) What are some ways in which Jehovah’s servants may express thankfulness to him? (b) What is required beyond verbal expressions of thanks?
2 Appreciation for God’s goodness may be expressed often in conversation with fellow believers. Most dedicated Christians probably thank their heavenly Father, Jehovah, for his goodness several times a day, doing so in personal prayer. Thankfulness is also expressed in congregation prayers and while singing Kingdom songs at Christian meetings. Of course, it is relatively easy to express thankfulness in words. The apostle Paul, however, encouraged his brothers at Colossae not just to say that they were thankful but also to show or demonstrate thankfulness in their daily lives. He wrote: “Let the peace of the Christ control in your hearts, for you were, in fact, called to it in one body. And show yourselves thankful.”—Colossians 3:15.
Abundant Cause for Thankfulness
3. Why should all of us be thankful to God?
3 Everyone living has abundant cause for thankfulness. The foremost reason is the enjoyment of life itself, for everything we have or might plan will suddenly become valueless if we lose our life. The psalmist David urged all humans to remember that “with you [Jehovah God] is the source of life.” (Psalm 36:9) And the apostle Paul reminded the men of Athens of the same eternal truth when speaking on the Areopagus. (Acts 17:28) Yes, just being alive is abundant cause for thankfulness. And our appreciation deepens when we remember the faculties God has given us—the senses of taste, of touch, of smell, of sight, and of hearing—so that we can enjoy life and the beauties of creation around us.
4. What will safeguard us from taking the blessings of life for granted?
4 Yet, many take these good things for granted. Only when deprived of a faculty, such as eyesight or hearing, do many humans realize the blessings they failed to appreciate when in good health. Dedicated Christians constantly need to be careful not to drift into a similar lack of appreciation. They must work hard to maintain the same thankful attitude as that displayed by the psalmist who said: “Many things you yourself have done, O Jehovah my God, even your wonderful works and your thoughts toward us; there is none to be compared to you. Were I inclined to tell and speak of them, they have become more numerous than I can recount.”—Psalm 40:5.
5. Despite Israel’s additional blessings from Jehovah, what shameful course did they pursue?
5 The 106th Psalm 106 gives a poetic summary of the mighty acts Jehovah performed in behalf of his people, Israel. God’s dealings with them were in addition to the goodness and normal blessings of life that he bestows upon mankind in general. Despite these advantages, however, the psalmist points out that the Israelites did not continue to show appreciation for their unique blessings. Ps 106 Verse 13 states: “Quickly they forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.” No, it was not the passing of time that gradually diminished their thankfulness, so that decades later they no longer remembered what God had done for them. Instead, they forgot quickly—within weeks of Jehovah’s outstanding miracles in their behalf at the Red Sea. (Exodus 16:1-3) Sadly, future events showed that unthankfulness became a regular pattern in their life.
How to Show Thankfulness
6. Why was the tithing requirement no hardship?
6 In detail, Jehovah spelled out three specific ways in which the Israelites were to show genuine appreciation for his goodness. One was to observe the tithing requirement by giving Jehovah a tenth of all produce and livestock. (Leviticus 27:30-32) This would be no hardship, for God was responsible for the sun, the fertile soil, the rain, and the miracle of growth. So, giving a tenth to the priests at Jehovah’s sanctuary was a practical expression of thankfulness to Jehovah himself.
7. (a) What major difference was there between tithing and making contributions to Jehovah? (b) What did this allow the Israelites to reveal about themselves?
7 Another requirement was the making of contributions to God in which the amount was determined by the heart attitude of the individual Israelite. While no set amount was specified, the contributions were to be of the firstfruits—the first of the grain, the wine, and the wool of the flocks. (Numbers 15:17-21; Deuteronomy 18:4) Moreover, Jehovah stipulated that his people ‘were not to give hesitantly’ and were to give “the best of the first ripe fruits.” (Exodus 22:29; 23:19) This gave the Israelites opportunities to show their gratitude to Jehovah in a tangible way. They could reveal their depth of thankfulness by the amount of the contributions. Would they contribute just one bunch of grapes? Or would a generous heart move them to give a whole basketful? Thus, each person or family could demonstrate thankfulness without coercion.
8. (a) What two benefits did the gleaning arrangement provide? (b) How could generosity and thankfulness be demonstrated by all those involved in the gleaning arrangement?
8 A third specific way to show thankfulness was in connection with God’s provision for gleaning. At harvesttime, portions were to be left unreaped for the needy. Not only did this teach compassion and consideration for the poor but it also ensured that they did not subsist on demoralizing handouts that required no effort on their part. (Leviticus 19:9, 10) Just how much should be left for the needy was not specified. But if the Israelite farmers showed a generous spirit by leaving plenty around the edge of their fields and thus showing favor to the poor, they would be glorifying God. (Proverbs 14:31) It was left for them to determine whether to leave a narrow or a wide area unreaped. But God gave strong directives toward generosity by instructing that any sheaves overlooked in the field and any fruit left on the tree or vine should be for the gleaners. (Deuteronomy 24:19-22) In turn, gleaners could demonstrate their own thankfulness to Jehovah for this provision by contributing a tenth of their gleanings at his place of worship.
Generosity of Heart
9. Why were those exhibiting a selfish attitude actually hurting themselves?
9 If the Israelites made liberal contributions, Jehovah’s blessing would rest upon their houses. (Compare Ezekiel 44:30; Malachi 3:10.) In spite of plentiful harvests, however, they often failed to make contributions. Then God used reminders through kings or prophets to reawaken their thankfulness. Actually, selfish Israelites were the ones missing out, for Jehovah could not bless those who withheld contributions associated with his worship or for the poor.
10. (a) What were the happy results of King Hezekiah’s reminders about thankfulness? (b) Did these conditions last?
10 On one occasion, King Hezekiah’s reminders resulted in a joyful 14-day celebration in Jerusalem. The people were spiritually revived. First, they destroyed all appendages of idol worship and then “gave heaps upon heaps. . . . When Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they proceeded to bless Jehovah and his people Israel.” (2 Chronicles 30:1, 21-23; 31:1, 6-8) Sadly, though, after such periodic revivals, the people lapsed into unthankfulness. Finally, God’s patience ran out, and he allowed his people to be taken captive to Babylon. Their city and beautiful temple were destroyed. (2 Chronicles 36:17-21) Later, after the restoration, conditions again became so serious that Jehovah likened the Jews’ tightfistedness to stealing from him, robbing him!—Malachi 3:8.
11. What principle learned from Israel’s history can benefit Christians living at this time?
11 What principle can be learned from the Israelites’ erratic history? This: As long as thankfulness remained strong in their hearts, they joyfully demonstrated this by giving “heaps upon heaps” to Jehovah. But when thankfulness was forgotten or came to a low ebb, joyful material giving virtually stopped. Could such a bad attitude be displayed by dedicated Christians today? Yes, because human imperfection is still with us. How glad we are that God recorded his dealings with Israel so that we, who live at the end of this system of things, can learn and benefit from them!—Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11.
12. (a) How are Jehovah’s people today in a position similar to that of the Israelites? (b) What questions do we need to ask?
12 Like the Israelites, Jehovah’s people today have many reasons for thankfulness. We too are recipients of more blessings than those enjoyed by our fellow humans. In fact, we know much more about Jehovah’s purposes than did the people of Israel. We have learned how God willingly sacrificed his Son, and we are aware of the blessings this will bring to those having divine approval. And today we are privileged to be in a spiritual paradise, for since 1919, Jehovah has created a grand spiritual estate for his people. Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses have many added reasons for thankfulness. So we need to ask: How deep is our thankfulness to God? And how can we show ourselves thankful in this 20th century?
13, 14. Though Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, can any parallel be drawn for them from the tithing law?
13 Christians are not under the Mosaic Law that outlined how to demonstrate thankfulness to God. (Galatians 3:24, 25) Our “sacrifice” of praise to Jehovah is “the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) This, then, is the principal way that dedicated Christians can show thankfulness to God. But interesting parallels may be drawn from the laws on tithing, contributions, and gleaning.
14 Tithing meant giving the specific amount of one tenth—and there was no option about this. Similarly, today there are specific commands resting upon all of Jehovah’s servants, also without options. We are to meet together regularly, and we must publicly preach the good news of Jehovah’s Kingdom and help others to become Christ’s disciples.—Hebrews 10:24, 25; Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20.
15. What indicators of generous hearts in modern times parallel those revealed by the contributions and gleaning arrangements in ancient Israel?
15 Remember, too, the contributions and gleaning arrangements. Specific amounts were not stipulated. Likewise, the Scriptures lay down no specific amount of time for each of Jehovah’s Witnesses to spend in sacred service. The amount of time devoted to studying God’s Word and preaching to others is left to the motivation of generous, unselfish hearts. Similarly, the extent of material contributions for the advancement of Kingdom interests is left for each individual’s heart to dictate. Depth of thankfulness will determine whether one of God’s servants today will bring in “heaps upon heaps” or just enough to get by. (2 Chronicles 31:6) As in Israel’s case, however, the greater one’s demonstration of thankfulness, the more bountiful the blessings received from God.
Ways to Show Thankfulness
16-18. In what specific ways can dedicated Christians show themselves thankful?
16 One of the most direct ways to demonstrate thankfulness to Jehovah is to engage in the full-time ministry. Is your thankfulness great enough for your heart to have that longing? It has well been observed that a successful pioneer needs first the desire to serve and then the right circumstances. When thankfulness is strong, an impelling desire to serve God more fully wells up in an appreciative heart. Is that how you feel? Even if your present circumstances preclude your sharing in the full-time ministry, this need not quench the pioneer spirit. You can give wholehearted support and encouragement to the pioneers.
17 If you are unable to pioneer now, could you be an auxiliary pioneer from time to time? There are special periods each year when the Christian congregation encourages more-than-usual effort in the preaching work. The summer months, for example, are ideal for many, and in October there is additional activity in connection with the magazine subscription campaign. With regard to increased time for sacred service, the principle holds true that thankfulness produces generous giving.
18 Another specific way to show thankfulness is by supporting the theocratic building program taking place around the earth. In many lands, new Kingdom Halls are being built, and existing halls are being enlarged because of overcrowding. New Assembly Halls are being constructed, and extensions are being added to Bethel Homes and factories. What a practical way to demonstrate thankfulness to Jehovah—our contributing labor or finances to care for these building projects!
Fine Example of Needy Widow
19. What impresses you most about the needy widow at the temple?
19 A well-known Biblical example of showing thankfulness by generous material giving is that of the widow described by Jesus. (Luke 21:1-4) She must have realized that her two coins of such small value would make little difference as to the material well-being of the temple and those serving there. But she did not look at the temple and the priests who served there and think to herself: ‘They live far better than I do and have a better building than my humble home.’ True, the temple was much more luxurious and beautiful. “It was adorned with fine stones and dedicated things.” (Luke 21:5) But that did not deter the widow from making a contribution. She wanted to show herself thankful to Jehovah, not to the men who served at the temple.
20. How may we display the same admirable attitude as that shown by the poor widow?
20 Jehovah’s people today learn from this example. Like the needy widow, they know that their contributions, large or small, are given to God. And they are reassured by knowing that Jehovah’s earthly organization is so structured that no individual can ever profit financially. The Society’s facilities are constructed and operated so as to equip hard workers to get the maximum result in quality production of Bibles and Bible helps and in serving Kingdom interests. This is a striking contrast to the scandalous misuse of donated money recently reported in connection with some television evangelists.
Reminders to Thankfulness Beneficial
21, 22. What effect should kindly reminders to show ourselves thankful evoke in appreciative hearts?
21 The Israelites needed constant reminders of their duty toward Jehovah, especially of the need to demonstrate a thankful spirit. Generally, when these matters were brought to their attention, thankfulness was rekindled in their hearts, and this resulted in more than words to express their grateful appreciation. They were willing to give “heaps upon heaps” of produce to Jehovah to be used at his house of worship.
22 So may those of the present-day “Israel of God” and the “great crowd” of their companions always feel the same way. (Galatians 6:16; Revelation 7:9) May their grateful hearts move them to give “heaps upon heaps” of praise to Jehovah. Then they can truly say: “We are showing ourselves thankful to our generous and loving God, Jehovah.”
Do You Recall?
□ Why do Christians constantly need to check the extent of their thankfulness?
□ Why have Jehovah’s people always had extra cause for thankfulness?
□ In what specific ways could the Israelites show their thankfulness to Jehovah?
□ Like the Israelites, what specific things can we do to express thankfulness?
□ What can we learn from the needy widow at the temple?
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The Israelites showed thankfulness by offering tithes and firstfruits and by making provision for the poor to glean their fields
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The psalmist thanked Jehovah for His wonderful works and thoughts toward His people
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Jehovah’s Witnesses today show thankfulness by sharing in field service and theocratic building projects, as well as by making material gifts