Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and
more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 4:15
As a minister I am often asked to say grace before a meal. But what do we mean by “saying grace” before we eat? It is a curious phrase, to say grace, when what we really mean is to express thanks. Yet in those well-worn words, saying grace, we acknowledge a profound truth: grace and thanksgiving are connected. We cannot separate the grace of God from our thanksgiving.
Karl Barth picks up on the connection between grace and thanksgiving. He tells how in the Greek New Testament the word for thanksgiving (eucharistia) builds on the word for grace (charis):
“The only answer to charis [“grace”] is eucharistia [“thanksgiving”]…charis always demands the answer of eucharistia. Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth. Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo. Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightning…Radically and basically all sin is simply ingratitude – man’s refusal of the one but necessary thing which is proper to and is required of him with whom God has graciously entered into covenant. As far as man is concerned, there can be no question of anything but gratitude.” (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV)
When Arizona monsoons bring lightning followed by thunderclaps, I will remember that “Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightning”! When God’s grace penetrates the human heart it always returns to God as gratitude.
Here again I take off my hat to the wisdom of those who have gone before us. Their language expresses this vital connection between God’s grace and our rebounding thanksgiving. In Latin based, or Romance languages there is this direct connection between words for grace and thanksgiving. The Latin word for grace, gratia, is the root for the Spanish word for thank you, gracias, the Italian grazie, the Portuguese grato, and is at the heart of English words like gratitude and grateful. It is where we got the idea of saying grace before meals; we are thankful. We can never separate thankfulness from the unmerited, undeserved grace of God to sinners. To be in the grace of God is to be genuinely thankful.
In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul reflects on how God’s grace works every detail of our lives for our good and for His glory. Then, in today’s Scripture, Paul concludes by taking the Greek word, for grace, charis, and building on it the word for thanksgiving, eucharistia:
“Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
As we go out and tell more and more people about God’s amazing grace, it rebounds in astonished thanksgiving. Grace evokes gratitude.
It is reported that the eminent Dutch theologian G. C. Berkouwer said in a lecture: “Grace is the essence of theology and gratitude is the essence of ethics.” Berkouwer is surely right. You boil it all down and it is all about grace and living gratefully! What an exciting prospect for 2018!
Grace and peace,