10 Key Bible Verses on Thankfulness

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:15–18

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Joy in Paul’s letters is a basic mark of the Christian (Rom. 14:17) and a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It is often associated with the firm hope of the Christian (e.g., Rom. 5:2–5; 12:12).

Pray without ceasing suggests a mental attitude of prayerfulness, continual personal fellowship with God, and consciousness of being in his presence throughout each day. Christians are to be marked by thanksgiving (Eph. 5:4, 20; Col. 2:7; 3:15, 17; 4:2). This probably refers to all of 1 Thess. 5:16–18.

2. Ephesians 5:4

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Thanksgiving, in contrast to crude joking and foolish talk, is the positive way to speak, and it also counteracts covetousness (see Eph. 5:3). The way to avoid coveting others’ possessions is to concentrate with thanks upon the good things the Lord has given (see Eph 5:19–20).

3. Psalm 103:1–4

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

This is a hymn of praise, celebrating the abundant goodness and love of the Lord for his people. It is the first of four psalms reflecting on God’s dealings with his people from creation to exile. Psalm 103 introduces the sequence by recalling that Israel’s survival in the time of Moses was due to God’s steadfast love. It begins with each individual singer exhorting his or her own soul to bless the Lord, and then goes on to list the benefits that the soul should be careful not to forget. The crowning benefit is God’s enduring love to the descendants of the faithful, which leads the worshipers to exhort all the angelic hosts and all the material creation to join in blessing the Lord. These benefits come to the individual (“you” in Psalm 103:3–5 refers to “my soul,” i.e., to me) but are not individualistic: he or she is a member of the community (Psalm 103:6–14, thinking of the people of God), and he or she contributes to the progress of that community (Psalm 103: 17–18). As the notes will show, the psalm takes the Pentateuch story for granted, with evocations of Gen. 2:7; Gen. 17:7; Exodus 32–34. Christians enter into the joy of this psalm as they celebrate how the biblical story that has developed since that time has displayed even more of God’s goodness and kindness. Psalm 104, though not by David, is probably placed next to this one because it too begins and ends with “Bless the LORD, O my soul.” Psalm 145 is the other example of a Davidic psalm that is a sustained celebration of God’s goodness and benevolence.

4. James 1:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

James moves from evil temptations (which God never gives) to the observation that every good gift and every perfect gift comes from God (cf. Matt. 7:11). As in James 1:5, James reminds the readers of God’s goodness. In their trials, God is not tempting them to sin, but the difficulties in life are intended to strengthen and perfect them and make them more like God. God’s intentions for them are always for good (cf. Rom. 8:28). There is nothing in this world that is truly good that has any other origin than from above, namely heaven, descending from the Father of lights, which refers to God as creator of the heavenly “lights” (Ps. 74:16; 136:7–9)—a prime example of his good gifts. God is unchanging in his character and therefore in his giving of good, unlike the variation of the night changing to day or the shifting shadow caused by the sun or moon.

5. Philippians 4:4–6

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.) Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Paul echoes Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 6:25–34) that believers are not to be anxious but are to entrust themselves into the hands of their loving heavenly Father, whose peace will guard them in Christ Jesus. Paul’s use of “guard” may reflect his own imprisonment or the status of Philippi as a Roman colony with a military garrison. In either case, it is not Roman soldiers who guard believers—it is the peace of God Almighty. Because God is sovereign and in control, Christians can entrust all their difficulties to him, who rules over all creation and who is wise and loving in all his ways (Rom. 8:31–39). An attitude of thanksgiving contributes directly to this inward peace.

6. Corinthians 2:14

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

A characteristic thanksgiving formula that, like 2 Cor. 1:3, sets the tone and introduces the themes to come (see 1 Cor. 15:57; 2 Cor. 8:16). leads us in triumphal procession. Most interpreters see this as a reference to the lavish victory parades celebrated in Rome after great battles. God is depicted as the sovereign victor, with Christ as the general, leading the victory procession, and Paul as “captured” by Christ but now joyfully following him. Images of such parades are still visible in some ancient works of art, such as in the reliefs on the late-first-century Arch of Titus in Rome commemorating the emperor’s victory over Jerusalem. The picture here reflects a recurring theme throughout 2 Corinthians, namely, the contrast between the believer’s apparent (temporal) defeat and the believer’s actual (spiritual) victory. Another view is that the “triumphal procession” is an expression of Paul’s praise to God for leading him (like a prisoner in a Roman triumphal procession) into situations of suffering such as he experienced in Troas (2:12, 13). Thus through Paul’s suffering God spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (see v. 15).

7. Colossians 4:2

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Jesus likewise admonished his disciples to “watch and pray” (Mark 14:38) so that they would not fall into temptation. Thanksgiving leavens prayer, so that it does not become merely a selfish pleading to have one’s desires fulfilled (cf. James 4:1–3).

8. Psalm 23:1–2

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

This hymn is usually classified as a psalm of confidence in the Lord’s care. It uses two images: the Lord as Shepherd who cares for the sheep (vv. 1–4), and the Lord as Host who cares for his guest (vv. 5–6). These images would be familiar from everyday experience (for David’s own, cf. 1 Sam. 17:34); but they also evoke other ideas common in the ancient Near East (including the OT), with the deity as shepherd of his people and the deity as host of the meal. In worship, the faithful celebrate God’s greatness and majesty; and when they sing this psalm, they see his majesty in the way he personally attends to each of his covenant lambs. He is the shepherd for Israel as a whole; and in being such, he is the shepherd for each faithful Israelite as well.

9. Psalm 50:23

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!” Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

The writer of the psalm, Asaph, sums it up: Worship him with the heart. The final thought sums up the psalm, with its interest in what membership in God’s favored people should mean: joyfully to delight in God’s presence (thanksgiving as his sacrifice), and a just and kind life in fellowship with God’s people (orders his way rightly).

10. Luke 17:11–19

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

As they went they were cleansed, i.e., healed. The priests would declare them clean. They had to begin to obey Jesus’ command to go to the priests before they were actually healed (cf. Luke 5:5; 2 Kings 5:13–14).

One leper turned back (cf. 2 Kings 5:15), praising God with a loud voice (a favorite Lukan expression; cf. Luke 4:33; 8:28; 19:37, etc.). The leper fell on his face (cf. 5:12), giving Jesus thanks. Elsewhere in the NT such giving of thanks (Gk. eucharisteō) is always directed to God (in every one of 37 other occurrences of this verb).

In the statement “Now he was a Samaritan,” the noun “he” is emphasized in the Greek; placing this statement later in the story also serves to emphasize that the only grateful leper was a Samaritan (on Samaritans, see Luke 9:52; 10:33).

The Samaritan’s faith has made him well (lit., “saved” him; cf. the same Gk. verb in Luke 7:50; Luke 8:48; 18:42), so that the healing here was more than physical.

All commentary sections adapted from the ESV Study Bible.

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