4 Ways to Show Gratitude Through Serving

I have a friend who has been very good to me—there for me through the most difficult time in my life, generous with her time and support in many ways, and interceding for me often in prayer. I truly cherish our relationship.

So, I wanted to show my gratitude for her kindnesses. I went out to eat in her honor. She didn’t know it and wasn’t invited but in my mind it was a good way to show how much I appreciate her because I expressed sincere gratitude for her when I said grace before consuming a plenteous and scrumptious meal. Afterwards, I went to a movie—the latest Tom Hanks movie—knowing it would make her feel good to know I honored her by enjoying myself. In all it was one of the best evenings I’ve had—all to show my friend how thankful I am for her.

How did that show gratitude for my friend, you ask? Isn’t it a little (okay, maybe a lot) self-serving to express thankfulness to my friend by treating myself to a big meal and entertainment? How is this any different from what we normally do at Thanksgiving? The idea is to be thankful to God (at least it was originally at Plymouth), but Thanksgiving has become another day for self-indulgence.

Feast, Football and Fun

Have you ever wondered what aliens would think if they showed up on Thanksgiving Day? When they are told the meaning of the holiday—to give thanks like the Pilgrims did and like President Lincoln did when he proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a day of national gratitude—but what they see and hear is a day full of self-indulgence with a feast, football and fun, they would be totally confused. 

When I Googled “history of Thanksgiving,” the first site I found offered a brief description of the Thanksgiving holiday with a reference to the Pilgrims’ inaugural celebration but then added this sentence: “The holiday continues to be a day for Americans to gather for a day of feasting, football, and family.” Pretty close to the 3 Fs in the heading above. How strange that we “celebrate” thankfulness by treating ourselves!

A Better Way

Let me offer a better way to show our gratitude to God for his blessings this Thanksgiving—serve people in need. When you think about it, I believe you will agree that serving others is an excellent way to show the Father how grateful we are. Is that not the meaning of Matthew 25 where Jesus says, “Inasmuch as you have visited the sick, . . . given food to the hungry, . . . given clothing to the naked, . . . visited the imprisoned, you have done it for me”? Serving people in need is serving Jesus. Serving others shows our gratitude and love for Jesus. Serving others is not only an appropriate expression of gratitude; it’s the way Jesus said is better.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in it’s various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

1 Peter 4:10-11

4 Ways to Show Gratitude Through Serving

Assuming I have convinced you (or at least helped you think about Thanksgiving differently), here are 4 ways to show gratitude this Thanksgiving through serving others:

  1. Invite a neighbor (or more than one ‘cause we all know you’ll have plenty of food!) to share your Thanksgiving meal with you and your family. Check around. See if one or more of your neighbors will be alone on Thanksgiving. It will feel different from your usual Thanksgiving, but I promise there will be more gratitude in the room than ever.
  2. Volunteer at a food pantry . . . on a day when it is hard for them to get volunteers. Pantries need volunteers to keep their shelves stocked but it is better to participate in giving clients food. Some pantries deliver food to people who cannot come on their own. Delivery of food to the food insecure is an excellent way to feel and express gratitude.
  3. Identify 5 people who are struggling for whatever reason and write a personal note to each one telling them how grateful you are for them. If you can’t write, call them. If you don’t have a phone that works, email them. 
  4. For the more adventurous of you—go to a place in your community where homeless people hang out and take them turkey sandwiches. Better yet, sit a spell with them and listen to them. Avoid potentially embarrassing questions. Just listen. More good has been done by listening than the world will ever know. 

What do you think?

What are your ideas of how to serve others to show your gratitude this Thanksgiving? Does serving others seem to you to be a good way to express our gratitude to God?

Written by:
David Crocker

David Crocker is the Founder of Operation Inasmuch. He was a pastor for 38 years prior to launching the Inasmuch ministry which has equipped more than 2,100 churches in 25 states and several other countries to mobilize their members in mercy ministry. David’s passion is seeing believers serving as the hands and feet of Jesus as a lifestyle.

One response to “4 Ways to Show Gratitude Through Serving”

  1. Novella McClung says:

    I try to show gratitude in every area of my life. I try to “do” gratitude. That means to not turn my head away – like we all do when we see children starving on television – but to look for ways to show gratitude to all I encounter. Another is to “say” gratitude. I say thank you to strangers, friends, family and I even say thank you to my husband when he helps me make the bed in the morning. The third gratitude is I show gratitude when I “serve” others. That may include physical labor or praying or giving – I look for ways to serve. Finally, my goal is to show the Lord my gratitude by “living” by His standards and His guide book. I am overwhelmed by His mercy and I want everyone to know how much He loves me and them – Gratitude is a privilege – use it to magnify the Lord!

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