Psalm 116

What can I give back to Adonai acknowledging all I have benefited from God? (116:12)

If the bounty of the world is our reward for being alive, what, if anything, should we give back to God? Although I don’t think the Psalmist asked the question this way, I read it as a rhetorical question. There is nothing that I need or even can give back to God to repay God for giving me life, a loving wife, children with gifts of their own to share, as well as employment, a home, and sufficient food.

First of all, it is given as a gift. When we receive a gift, the proper response is to be thankful. If we are not thankful then future gifts may be withheld, but the giver does not take back the gift. A gift by definition is given to and belongs to the recipient.

Second, what do you give a God who has, is, was, and will be, everything? Honestly speaking, God does not even need our thankfulness. God asks for loyalty, obedience, and appreciation, but it is not a demand issued by a tyrant on pain of death. We have the freedom to do as we want.

I suggest that we give thanks to God not to satisfy some Divine need but rather to remind ourselves of the importance and power of giving thanks. Thanksgiving is more than an overstuffed turkey and football. It is a pause in our lives to contemplate how lucky we are to be able to put any food on the table, not matter what it is, how little or how much.

My wife set aside a “Thanksgiving Jar” in the kitchen into which we place slips of paper indicating our gratitude for something that has happened. Slowly, over the course of time, the jar fills up. We take them out on Thanksgiving and read them aloud. It becomes a review of the good things of the past year, not necessarily in any particular order. God doesn’t need our Thanksgiving jar, but we certainly do.

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