Friday, November 19, 2010

Giving Thanks Over Meals

Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 19 November 2010

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thess 5:18)

Dressed in a suit, the man purchases his food at the cafeteria. As colleagues gather around the lunch table, some dig in immediately into their piping hot food. Others wait. A woman and a man sitting across each other pause. Even as the hungry ones munches away the food, the two persons bow their heads. After a short silence, they whisper an ‘Amen,’ and life suddenly goes back to normal. Now everybody eats.

So you’re a Christian?” asks the man with food still in his mouth.

How does anyone know that a person is a Christian? In our secular society, believers giving thanks before food is one of the most evident signs of demonstrating our Christian faith. It is a time when their world stops to remember the Creator. It is that sacred moment when believers acknowledge all good things come from above. If God had not enabled, feasting is not possible. In this article, I will suggest that giving thanks is not simply the literal words uttered, but the graciousness displayed that comes from a grateful heart.


A joke that I do not like is how people manipulate the spirit of thanksgiving. When a parent asks a child to ‘say grace,’ the child can mischievously say: “Grace!” and consider his job done. After all, he is literally correct. A discerning parent will gently rebuke the kid, and gives the child another chance to say it the right way. It is not mouthing the words that matter. Grace must be from the heart. It is the attitude of the heart that makes ‘grace’ truly grace.

One reason why Christians give thanks is in obedience to 1 Thess 5:18. Paul exhorts us to give thanks in everything. The city of Thessalonica is a large city in Macedonia at that time. Much like the capital cities in many countries, there are lots of people and commerce. Thessalonica is a busy port for business and is a major hive of activity. People who live in cities generally live faster and busier lifestyles. They may have a greater exposure to the ‘best things’ money can buy. I doubt their claim to any ‘higher’ quality of living. On the other hand, those living in the countryside exhibits more grace and patience with one another.

I remember how some villagers from a rural place treat my group with honour and graciousness. Knowing us as city dwellers, they reserve the best for us. They slaughter their choice animals and serve them to us first. Their own family eats the leftovers. We were touched by their hospitality, that despite them having so little, they served us with so much grace. When they gave thanks, we were touched by their deep sense of gratitude to God.

I believe learning to give thanks remain a critical practice for anyone seeking to grow in Christian love and spirituality. Saying grace sets the tone for a meaningful and gracious meal together. You do not need a lot of food to provide a good meal. You simply need a lot of heart.


A second aspect of giving thanks is to invite graciousness to flood the dinner table.
  • “Please pass the soup, thank you.”
  • “Yummy, I certainly enjoy the vegetables.”
  • “Would you like a glass of water, mum?”
  • “Can I get you a scoop of ice-cream, dad?”
  • “The fish is a little overcooked. Perhaps, next time, you can reduce the baking by 5 minutes?"

I think being gracious is an important second step after the initial act of giving thanks. Otherwise, offering thanks to God is mere paying lip service. Eating with graciousness is an act of divine service and gratitude first and foremost to God. When we forget that, we can easily fail to treat one another gently and kindly. Without gratitude, we can take one another for granted.


If we are animals, all of our life will be centered on hunting and getting food. Lions like to sleep during the day when the sun is hot. They hunt at night when they are least visible to their prey. For most animals, they live to eat. When they are not eating, it is simply because they are not hungry yet.

Human beings are not animals. They are spiritual beings. Humans treat eating only as a part of living, and not the only reason for living. Animals live to eat. Humans eat to live. Humans consume food to stay nourished, and to continue to do their other works and activities. They work in the office or in the home. They work on the computers or out in the field. When we say grace, we remind ourselves that we do not see life as mainly eating and drinking. We see eating and drinking as an extension to doing God’s will. Note Paul’s instruction to Timothy that giving thanks is in effect God’s will for us in Christ.

In summary, when we give thanks, we pause to remember that all good things come from God. When we start our meals, we demonstrate our thankfulness to God by being gracious to one another at the meal table. When we leave the table, we remind ourselves again that we eat in order to live and do God’s will.

A Simple Grace

“Lord, as we gather around this table;
Nourish us with Your goodness;
Fill us with Your food;
Quench our Thirst with Your living waters;
Fill our hearts with thanksgiving;
Give us graciousness to accept one another.
Above all, may Your love nourish us in Your grace as we thank You for everything. For Jesus' sake, Amen.”

Thought: It is not the words of giving thanks before the meal, but the acts that come after that matters.


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