Summary: What does it mean to return thanks? The could be the one thing that God uses to help us recognize that He is the source of it all!
When I was little, we didn’t go to church much. I don’t remember anyone ever “asking the blessing” around our table. I guess we just ate like hogs, with no thought of thanking God for his provision. The only times I recall “grace” being said before a meal was when we were at Granny’s table. I had my seat, conveniently next to mom. And when Granny set the table, I always got the “hollow” knife. It had something loose on the inside of the handle and would rattle if you shook it. Which I always did!
Before meals at Granny’s table, Papaw would “return thanks”, as he called it. I never quite understood what that meant (it never happened at our house), but it always happened at Granny’s table. On those special occasions, when all my uncles, aunts, and cousins were present for dinner, Papaw would call on Uncle Albert or Uncle Ray to return thanks. I remember that whenever we ate at one of their homes, someone always “returned thanks”, but never at my house.
What does it mean to RETURN THANKS?
Did you ever say to your kids or grandkids, “What do you say?” when they received some kind of gift? Did they ever have to be prodded to say, “Thank you”?
The desire to return thanks comes from LOVING GOD, not just from LIKING THE GIFTS received. When we return thanks, we recognize who God is. He is our Provider, Protector, and our Peace. When we return thanks, we recognize, like the Psalmist:
3 “… it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves… ‘
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Please recognize that you can still return thanks before eating too many tacos and still wind up with Montezuma’s Revenge! Returning thanks does not unspoil SPOILED FOOD, but it will change the SPOILED BRAT in us!
4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,
5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
Returning Thanks is a LEARNED Trait.
We are not born grateful creatures. Take a baby for just a little while and you’ll probably hold in your arms what could be best described as a schizophrenic! One minute cooing, the next crying; one minute silent, the next screaming; one minute friendly looking into your eyes, the next flailing every limb with bowed back and blood-red face; one minute smelling sweet, the next…well, you know!
Babies are not born saying, “Thanks”. It is not even the first word they learn. In order for children to learn to return thanks, they must be taught.
The year 1636 was unbelievable for German pastor, Martin Rinkart. Amid the darkness of the Thirty Year War, Pastor Rinkart is said to have buried 5000 of his parishioners, including his wife, in the year 1636, an average of 15 per day. In the heart of that kind of grief and pain, his parish ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster, with cries of fear outside his window and the constant demands to offer comfort, Pastor Rinkart did not forget to teach his children to return thanks. If you turn to page 36 in our hymnal, you will find the “table grace” poem he wrote to help his children return thanks.
Now thank we all our God,
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
2. O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us still in grace,
and guide us when perplexed;
and free us from all ills,
in this world and the next.
3. All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given;
the Son, and him who reigns
with them in highest heaven;
the one eternal God,
whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.
Turn with me to Luke 17 and find the account of nine men who would not return thanks. They were so excited to have received an unbelievable gift that they forget to return and thank the giver.
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.
12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance
13 and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"