Thanksgiving At Meals

By E. J. T.

Who Is The Giver?
Why have so many Christians, on sitting down to meals, begun by praying? The appropriate response to accepting a gift is to give thanks. The Christian recognizes God as the giver of his food, and therefore should render thanks to Him. This indeed is consistent with Scripture: “Meats … God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them who are faithful and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:3 JND).

The man of the world regards his food as the product of a machine or institution, which he calls “Nature.” The Christian goes behind this and recognizes the Creator of the entire system of nature. Furthermore, he not only believes that there is such a Creator, but he knows Him and is actually in communion with Him “by the word of God and prayer” (v.5 KJV). The Darby translation of this phrase is: “By God’s word and freely addressing [Him].” In an illuminative note of the whole subject, Mr. Darby wrote: “This I believe to be the sense here: enteuxis implies interaction with a person, then petitions and intercession; one person speaking personally to another … I believe the creature, fallen through Adam, belongs to the faithful and those who know the truth, by God’s speaking to us and our freely speaking to Him. This has set all on a new footing, because we have met God again, the Word of God having put us into communication by grace. The faithful and those who know the truth, who have availed themselves of it, come and enter into an interaction. It is no longer by nature, but by the Word of God.”

A Prayer For The Meal?
Scripture says, “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (vv.4-5). The current idea is that each meal needs to be prayed about before it can be properly partaken. But the contrary is the truth. It is sanctified, or set apart, by the fact of the new position in which the Christian stands: “the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours” (1 Cor. 3:22). Scripture directs with authority that the action on our part should be not prayer but thanksgiving:

  • “If it be received with thanksgiving …” (1 Tim. 4:4).
  • It is “created to be received with thanksgiving” (v.3).

Thus the Christian’s meal table becomes an altar of praise; the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.

Using A Prayer Formula?
How different from the dead formula which some of us have had to listen to with pain: “Sanctify, we beseech thee, O Lord, this food to our use, and us to Thy service, for Christ’s sake. Amen.” Not a word here of thanks to the Giver of all good for His bounties spread on the table before us. This oft repeated prayer is out of place, seeking that God would do something which He has already done, and for which He expects thanksgiving or praise from loving hearts which know Him.

Even where formulas have long been laid aside, one often hears what is really only an expansion of the gloomy one just quoted. We hear a prayer about our food, ourselves and our service, but never a note of praise to our God for His creature-gifts! Prayer is very, very blessed, but also in its place is praise. Not only does it react upon ourselves, but it glorifies God. “Whoso offereth praise [or, “thanksgiving,” margin] glorifieth Me” (Ps. 50:23). At a meal table it is sometimes said, “Will you ask a blessing?” The appropriate reply would be, “No; the food is already blessed; it is sanctified to our use; but for this food, which is already blessed, I will cheerfully give thanks.”

What Is The Basis Of Giving Thanks?
A precious thought in connection with the meal table is that the thanksgiving is on the basis of redemption. We do not receive God’s gifts on the original ground of creation, but because of the cross of Christ. God could not, being righteous, bestow the smallest benefit upon a sinner unless His righteousness in doing so was satisfied. Therefore it is on account of the propitiation of Christ, or the satisfaction God has in Christ, that our daily mercies come to us and, indeed, to the world. This is the basis on which God “maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt. 5:45).

The man of the world little dreams that he owes his food, clothing and every good that he enjoys to the despised atonement of Christ; but God would be exhibiting indulgence to sin if it were otherwise. It is in this regard that “Christ … is the propitiation … for the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). Men continue to live on the earth and are afforded the free use of God’s magnificent – though marred – creation because of the propitiation of Christ. It is in this sense that God is Savior and Preserver of all men, especially of those who believe (1 Tim. 4:10). Let us carefully note that this text refers to temporal salvation from day to day, not eternal salvation.

Should I Give Thanks In Public?
If we understand now that the offering of thanksgiving glorifies God, should we refrain from this when we are in public, say at a restaurant? No doubt this is often a trial to the flesh. It is an open confession of Christ, which the natural heart would willingly evade. However, we need to recall to our minds the Lord’s precious words: “Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God” (Lk. 12:8) and, “Them that honor Me, I will honor” (1 Sam. 2:30). Paul, on board a ship, “took bread and gave thanks to God, in presence of them all” (Acts 27:35). Daniel kneeled and prayed at his open window as he had done previously, three times a day, at the penalty of death (Dan. 6).

Thus this slight matter of thanksgiving at meals may afford to us a test of where we really are as to the power of God in our souls. “I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will,” Paul said, “and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Cor. 4:19-20).