- Not A Minor Point
|Giving thanks before we
eat. It was common in America in days gone by. As America has forgotten
God, naturally, giving Him thanks would also fall by the wayside.
Let's take a look at that prayer that we commonly call
"grace". Why is it called "grace", of all things? The answer isn't hard
to find. The word "grace" comes from two Latin root words. "Gratia"
which means "thanks" and "gratus" which means "grateful".
I wanted to find out how other cultures say grace. Sadly, I
was disappointed. It's no longer important in the United States, and is
unimportant worldwide, or so it appears. In a formal setting, Finland
starts their meals by having the host raise a glass and saying, "bon
apetit". Instead of starting a meal by looking at God, they look at
themselves. American etiquette books tell us the meal starts officially
when the host picks up his or her fork. I heard Russian Christians
started their meals by standing up and thanking God before they eat.
After eating, they stand again and thank Him. I suppose they can be
more specific after dinner!
A college friend of mine, told me how he loved the time of
grace most of all. He said he would pray long prayers then, because he
knew he was about to be satisfied with food as soon as he was done. I
guess that's kind of like the saying, "The way to a man's heart is
through his stomach."
Many of us take saying grace for granted. Many new
believers are ignorant of the importance of saying grace. Grace is very
important for more reasons than one and we, as Christians, need to take
TEMPLE OF GOD
4 For every creature of
God is good, and nothing to be
refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by
the word of God and prayer. 6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance
of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ,
nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou
1 Timothy 4:4-6
Paul wanted every believer to be aware of the importance of
saying grace, as verse 6 shows. Paul would be addressing the issue of
Jewish dietary restrictions in verses 4 and 5. The Jews were forbidden
to eat certain foods, such as pig. Paul would have been letting us know
that such restrictions no longer apply to Christians, if it's
sanctified. "Sanctified" means, to separate from profane and dedicate
to God. All food is set apart as clean through the act of giving thanks
and the word of God. The word of God decreed that all foods were
acceptable by Paul (Colossians 2:16) by Jesus (Mark 7:15-23) and in
Acts, by God to Peter (Acts 10:11-15).
Another important issue should be noticed here. All
Christians are called the "Temple of God" (1 Corinthians 6:19,20; 2
Corinthians 6:14-18). Whatever enters God's Temple needs to be
sanctified. To bring something into the temple unsanctified, is an act
of desecration. Upon seeing this, we realize that everything we put in
our body has to be "sanctified".
TRADITION OR HABIT
Once we understand the need for saying grace, we need to
take care it doesn't become rote habit.
9 Save thy people, and
bless thine inheritance: feed them
also, and lift them up for ever.
We need to remember He really is the provider. I
the grace I was taught in kindergarten, "God is great, God is good, let
us thank Him for our food, amen." For one thing, if you think about it,
this isn't even really a prayer. "Let us thank Him" doesn't ever become
"thank you God". It's also a "prayer" that doesn't acknowledge Jesus
(John 16:23). Vain repetitions are also vain, because we're not really
talking with God (Matthew 6:7). How many wives would be happy to hear
their husbands recite a chant of "Thank you for the dinner. It smells
lovely. I know you worked hard on it. I'm sure it will taste very
good." After three or four meals of that, you might end up with a
casserole dumped over your head! Remember, grace isn't a "magic
formula" - presto change, let's eat.
If it's important enough to put in us, isn't it important
enough to be thankful for?
Around the mid-1800's, there was a man of God by the name
of George Muller. He started an orphanage in England. He truly leaned
on God. He was committed to never asking any man for financial help. He
figured, if it was God's work, He would provide. God did. There were
numerous times when he would have all the children sitting down at the
table for dinner, and have no food to serve them. They would say grace
and there would come a knock at the door. The bread wagon broke down
right outside the orphanage, and was wondering if they could use some
bread. Maybe it would be the milkman with a similar problem. God always
provided. With George Muller, grace wasn't just a habit, it was a
response to a living faith.
Do we really care about the importance of real grace? It
comes down to a principal. Is God with us in everything, or do we just
remember Him on Sundays? Is He our life, or our hobby?
6 In all thy ways
acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name
of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
I read a comment from a Christian leader that said
should give thanks for the water we drink. It amazed him, for
previously he had never thought to give thanks for water. He must have
taken it for granted before. Having something all the time, we tend to
begin taking it for granted. We need to be careful not to fall into
that trap. As the above verses stated, in all our ways and in all we
get, we should give thanks.
Saying grace is also a witness. When you're in mixed
company or in public, others notice. It tells them several things.
First, it shows you hold a reverence for God. Your life should
demonstrate a reverence for Him in everything you do. Second, it shows
you're not an ingrate. Who knows, maybe it might make some ungrateful
Christians out there feel a little prick in their conscience. Finally,
for those who understand grace, it shows you take the issue of purity
When in public we shouldn't make a big display. (Everybody
stand up and hold hands now! With a booming voice.) We also shouldn't
go all secret, and try to say it on the sly. We should say it just
naturally. How do you say it when you're at home alone? That is what's
There is the point of courtesy when with non-Christians.
Don't make them feel like they have to participate with you. After all,
if they don't say it naturally, they aren't really grateful and they
don't have to worry about sanctifying it to themselves. In this case,
you can simply bow your head and pray quietly, like I suspect you do
when you're alone.
If these non-Christians you're with want to say grace with
you, feel free. This is similar to the incident where Samuel went with
Saul to the sacrifice when God had rejected Saul (1 Samuel 15:23-31).
Saul was only interested in saving face in front of others, as would
the non-Christians in regard to saying grace with you.
Unfortunately, there are too many Christians who are
ashamed to let others see them say grace. If you're one of those who
pray in disguise, remember, He also will be ashamed of you!
38 Whosoever therefore
shall be ashamed of me and of my
words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the
Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with
the holy angels.
I worked at a small print-shop. The owner took all
employees, of whom I was one, out to breakfast. I bowed my head and
silently said grace, when I looked up, one of the other employees
almost exploded in hysterics. He thought better of it and stifled
himself. My thought, was it shame? No! I thought how pitiful of that
person, that he thought manly behavior meant refusing to acknowledge
God. How mixed up he was!
We've considered that saying grace in public is a witness,
and it has actually opened opportunity for me to witness. Let's
consider further ramifications. If others notice, they know you're a
Christian and note the rest of your behavior. It's a big testimony. Is
it a good testimony or a bad one? Are you sloppy? Rude? Have poor table
manners? Are your children uncontrolled? Remember, the world is
watching! (So is God, for that matter!)
WHAT YOU GIVE THANKS FOR
We need to take a serious look at what we give thanks for,
and what we ask God to sanctify to His temple.
I remember a story I thought was rather remarkable. A
minister led this husband and wife, who were the caretakers at some
kind of mountain resort, to the Lord. When the minister left, they had
no Christian fellowship. Winter came and the man was in the habit of
drinking wine at dinner-time during the winter. He used to get drunk.
Now he was a Christian, but didn't know anything about the Christian
view of such an issue. He bowed his head to lead his wife in saying
grace for the meal, but found he couldn't do it. They were confused as
to why this should be. He told her to look in their New Testament to
see if she could find anything about it. She was inexperienced, so with
a handicapped attempt, gave up. She encouraged him to just go ahead and
have his wine. They would ask the minister later, when they saw him. He
tried to say grace again and again was unable. At this, he said to take
the wine away, then he was able to say grace. This illustrated the Holy
Spirit's guiding, but we can also see its direct application to what
we're saying grace for.
Saying grace also acts as a guide. God doesn't provide for
substances that enslave our body. Can you give thanks if you're a slave
to it? We know He's not to blame for giving us that which enslaves and
destroys us. He won't bless such or sanctify it. What you're partaking
of is wrong and hence, defiles God's temple. This is sin in a whole new
aspect. Paul said:
27a But I keep under my
body, and bring it into
1 Corinthians 9:27a
This is a call to all Christians. Elsewhere,
specifically condemned (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:21). What are some
areas people get enslaved in? Thinking on this, I came up with alcohol
(of course), cigarettes, drugs, coffee, chocolate, and overall
gluttony. We know we can't ask God to bless and sanctify things that
are stumbling blocks for others (Romans 14:13-15), besides the issue of
them being bad for our own bodies. When youth see you drinking, smoking
or taking drugs, they may want to act like a grown-up and imitate you.
You may tell them, "don't smoke", but they imitate and hence, harm
their own bodies, start an enslavement, are enticed into disobeying
their parents, break the law, and maybe even begin stealing and lying.
After all, a lot of kids can't afford to feed their addiction, hence
steal, and have to lie to cover it up. All this, because of your
putting something into your body that you could never rightly say grace
for anyway. As you may have noticed, it snowballs.
What about that dessert or candy bar? Can you bless those?
Surely they're not good for you? These are legitimate questions. First,
all our eating should be in proper moderation. Hopefully you wouldn't
go to your local buffet restaurant and fill up on nothing but desserts!
Such dining and blessing could seriously be called into question.
Balance, in a view of maintaining your health and the ability to say,
"no" in the middle of a candy bar, are important. Enslavement to the
destruction of your flesh in anything, is wrong.
It's one thing to have an addiction, and realize it's wrong
before God, but another to successfully quit it. After all, "addiction"
means you can't quit it. So, what do you do about an addiction? First,
as I just said, you must realize how really bad it is before God. If
you don't, you won't diligently aim your guns at it. You have to care
about God and the importance of your witness, your purity and the
dedication of all your life to Him. This is the starting point. Jesus
6 Blessed are they which
do hunger and thirst after
righteousness: for they shall be filled.
His promises don't fall to the floor void. A major
is that we think we're hungering and thirsting when our hearts
deceiving us. For the saint, God faithfully works with His Spirit to
uncover this area in our hearts. If we refuse to receive His
enlightenment, the wall will remain and our victories won't come. Many
saints can testify of their own experiences as to how they convinced
themselves they were diligently following God, when in reality, they
were adamant against His discipline. When they finally broke, confessed
and repented, they knew God's victorious presence and overcoming life.
(Take note: The hardened area may be totally unrelated to the
addiction. The hard area acts as a wall keeping God's Spirit at bay in
our whole life.) This breakthrough into victory, certainly doesn't mean
there won't be danger from future enslavements, but He does supply
daily, according to our needs, as we seek Him (Matthew 6:31-34). This
whole subject of addiction is a complete study in itself, but the
solution, in a nutshell, meets this form.
We need to take care to not let our saying grace become
rote habit. God wants true gratefulness, not mere formality. We also
need to value the importance of keeping ourselves "sanctified" before
God, in fear and trembling. The base of this issue must pull us back to
"the fear of the Lord" (Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7). The need to say grace
and the ability to say grace, is a constant reminder of our
relationship with God. Hold it in this value, and don't think of it as
a minor point.
Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible