About a year ago, when the twins were newly three, I was out running errands with Sully during a Saturday morning mother/son date. Sully was having an especially polite day, and after overhearing him profusely thank a cashier at the HEB checkout, a store employee commented on his politeness. I acknowledged that yes, he was an especially polite toddler, but I wasn’t sure I could take credit for his manners: after all, I have exhaustively trained all three of my kids to use please and thank you and excuse me when interacting with others, but Sully is the only child who has taken to using his manners without prompting. In other words, I think his politeness says more about his personality than my parenting.

That is not to say that my other two kids are off the hook for practicing good manners. I am an absolute stickler about having my kids express gratitude whenever possible. There is nothing magical about the words “thank you,” but gratitude is imperative and I know from experience that expressing thanks with our mouths can be an important first step in adopting a genuine spirit of heartfelt gratitude.

The Bible mentions the word “gratitude” 157 times, or so Google tells me. (This number would be even higher if the words “thanks” and “thanksgiving” were included in the count.) The Biblical word for gratitude can be translated as “extending favor towards,” and it refers to a quality of showing appreciation and extending kindness. By this definition, gratitude is much more than uttering the words “thank you” to be polite; it is a wholehearted acknowledgement that we have been the recipients of another’s efforts. Gratitude might begin with an expression of thanks, but it does not end there.

Gratitude is the outflowing of a heart that has been changed by Jesus: we recognize God’s mercy and kindness in our lives, and we are grateful. Gratitude is a birthplace for humility before our Creator as we acknowledge His greatness and step out in trust as He leads us. Gratitude also provides fertile ground for the development of spiritual fruit: a grateful heart is loving and joyful, peaceful and patient, kind and good and faithful and gentle. As it flourishes, this abundance of spiritual fruit extends our capacity for gratitude, and the God-ordained cycle is perpetuated.

Today, Thanksgiving Day, I am sure you will spend some time giving thanks to God for His provision and blessing. I hope your gratitude goes deeper than superficial thank yous. May the true spirit of overwhelming thanksgiving spring up within your heart today. Let us truly GIVE THANKS to our Lord God this day, and every day.

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