“The Real Meaning of Thank You”

Happy Thanksgiving, TD!

I hope you’ve been able to implement what I encouraged you to do in our last post; and I hope God has been enjoying you!

During this time of thanksgiving, have you stopped to think what “Thanks” or “Thank you” really means?  My wife, Sandra, has 🙂  As she often does, she goes to the root of giving thanks to help us honor God more thoughtfully.  Enjoy! – Arthur

“The Real Meaning of Thank You” by Sandra Hsieh (adapted from her talk at SPCH)

We are commanded in Scripture, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (I Thessalonians 5:18 ) What is the root word for the word “thank”?  Think (change one letter and you get “think”).  The reality is, a thankful person is a thoughtful person.  When you say “thank you”, you are basically saying, “I will remember what you did for me.”

How do you say thank you in Portuguese?  Obrigado – literally, “much obliged” or “I am in your debt.”

How do you say thank you in French? Merci (begging for mercy, placing yourself in your benefactor’s power — since a debtor is, after all, a criminal)

How do you say thank you in Spanish? Muchas gracias (much grace).  It leans heavily on the word “grace.”  Grace is undeserved favor.

Let’s look at the response.  What is someone saying when he responds, “You’re welcome”?  When you say “merci” in French, what is the response? “De rien.” Or, in Spanish, “Muchas gracias” is returned with, “De nada.”  In both languages, the giver is saying, “It is nothing, no worries, I am not going to inscribe a debt in your imaginary moral account book.”

In English, when you respond with, “My pleasure,” you are saying, “No, actually, it’s a credit, not a debit — you did me a favor because in asking me to do that favor, you gave me the opportunity to do something I found rewarding in itself!”

So, the next time you thank someone … you are saying “I stopped long enough to think about what you just did for me.  You didn’t have to do that for me, but since you did, I am in your debt.”

John Njoroge, a member of the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries team, writes in a “Slice of Infinity” entitled, The Indignity of Giving Thanks:

“But everything we know about ourselves and our world speaks loudly against this tendency to self-sufficiency. As human babies, we all begin our lives at the highest level of dependence, and none of us really outgrows all degrees of dependence. We depend on parents, teachers, peers, coaches, and others to open doors for us in life.  Dependence on others is a living reality whose attempted concealment is gradually unveiled by the onset of old age. From the inventions that give us comfort in this world to the young soldiers who give their lives in the battlefields to protect our livelihoods, an unobstructed view of our lives reveals the fact that we all owe debts that we can never repay.”

Our life is full of things that we do for others and things that others do for us.

But, what does it mean for us to give thanks to God?  God is self-existent.  He created all things and upholds this universe.  God is the Spring or Well in which everything originates.  The rest of us are just sharing with others what has been given to us.  We are not real owners ourselves; we are just stewards of what He has given to us to manage.

When we say “Thank you” to God, we are truly expressing the real meaning of the word, “we are indebted to you, we are at your mercy, we accept your grace and favor.  We are sinners and criminals.  We owe You a debt that we cannot pay back.”

Now, would it be right for God to say, “De nada” or “It’s nothing”?  If He said that, then we would be left in our condition to go to hell.  He cannot be the righteous and just One and say, “No worries” to our sin and transgression to Him.

When we show our indebtedness to Him, the truthful and proper response is, “You’re right.” You do owe Me, you do need My mercy, you do need My grace, you do need to THINK of the situation that you are in.

Then, He does only what He can do to pay for that debt; He extends His mercy and grace.  He comes in the form of a baby, lives a perfect life, and then dies a death that He did not deserve.

As John Njoroge continues to write, “We will never begin to worship God until we recognize that we are bankrupt debtors, for an attitude of gratitude is an indispensable impetus to worship.”

As Thanksgiving quickly gives way to Christmas, may we continually ponder and think about our debt to God and His priceless GIFT to us in His only begotten Son!

Let us proclaim as the apostle Paul did in II Corinthians 9:15:

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”