Thank You, God

Religious perspectives on gratitude.

Reprinted from "Words of Gratitude: For Mind, Body, and Soul," by Robert Emmons and Joanna Hill, with permission of the publisher, Templeton Foundation Press



In Judaism, gratitude is a vital component of worship andpermeates every aspect of the worshiper's daily life. In theHebrew Scriptures, the poetry of the Psalms is saturated withthanksgiving to God: "O LORD my God, I will give thanks toyou forever "(30:12) and "I will give thanks to the LORD withmy whole heart "(9:1).

The day starts with the Shema, which begins: "You shalllove the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all yoursoul, and with all your might "(Deuteronomy 6:5). Theconcluding prayer, the 'alenu, thanks God for the particulardestiny of the Jewish people.

Thankfulness for everything is appropriate in Judaismbecause all things come from God in the Hebrew world view; therefore, Jewish life is filled with this recognition. A prayer is said upon hearing good or bad news, and God is praised for everything. In this way,a divine perspective on life is maintained.



Gratitude has always been central among Christian virtuesand appears in classical and modern devotional writings aswell as in the Old and New Testaments. In Christian gratitude, God is the giver of all gifts and the ultimate foundation for thankfulness. There is a feeling of indebtedness to the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. God 's generosity provides the model for how Christians are to deal with theirown children and with each other.

Jonathan Edwards, the 17-century revivalistpreacher and theologian, described two types of gratitude inhis classic work, "A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections." Hedescribed these two types as natural gratitude and as a gracious or spiritual gratitude. Natural gratitude is thanks expressed to God for the benefits a person has received, whereas gracious gratitude has its source in the knowledge of the goodness of God independent of favors received.

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