The Roots of Gratitude

Psalm 100 was written to instruct the community of faith on giving thanks. It is a blue print of sorts for developing a posture of gratitude. Thanksgiving in the text is grounded in understanding two key things: creation and covenant. The Psalm begins with a call to celebration and praise showing the connection between joy and thanksgiving. As Karl Barth said, joy is the “simplest form of gratitude.”

This joyful gratitude comes forth from knowing something about God. The text says, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, not we ourselves we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” In other words, know that God is the Creator and we ourselves are creatures. It is good to be reminded that we did not create ourselves—an obvious fact we actually do forget.

As creatures we are fundamentally dependent. Our existence itself is a gift. Do you see how this is foundational to gratitude? If your existence is a gift then it follows that everything that comes your way is also a gift. All of life is truly God’s gift to us. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians make perfect sense when you think about life this way: “What do you have that you have not received?”

G.K. Chesterton once said that “All goods look better when they look like gifts.” This is true. The fact is, all of life can and should be viewed this way. Imagine seeing life through this lens—it is the opposite of entitlement. Embrace what it means to be a creature of God and this view of life as gift will begin to take root.

The Psalm continues with a call to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. The imperatives for thanksgiving really pile up in this section. Then comes a further root cause of giving thanks. “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” The ground of thanksgiving provided here is the goodness and steadfast love of God.

The language of steadfast love is tightly connected to covenant. The word refers to loyalty and covenant faithfulness. It is the type of love bound to oaths and promises and sealed by blood. These promises are made by a God who cannot lie and can never change. They are made by a God who ultimately sent his Son to fulfill his promises to us and provide a way of forgiveness and hope. Understanding that the wonder and certainty of the blood bought promises of God produces gratitude, it must.

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