7 Thanksgiving Scriptures You Might Have Missed

If you want to make a Thanksgiving service more engaging, try using some different...

If you want to make a Thanksgiving service more engaging, try using some different Bible verses. Of course there are dozens of Psalms that urge us to thank and praise the Lord, and there are several go-to passages in Paul’s epistles, but we use them a lot. The following references are a bit off the beaten track. With the right exposition, they could provide a new angle on this important national holiday.

1. The Pilgrims’ Story, in Advance

Deuteronomy 8:2-10
Perhaps you associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, crossing the Atlantic to find a new home, encountering hardship but then sharing a feast with their new neighbors. Deuteronomy 8 opens with a similar story—except it’s the Israelites crossing the desert. The Lord was bringing them through much difficulty into a land of plenty. “You will have all you want to eat, and you will give thanks to the LORD your God for the fertile land that he has given you” (v. 10, all quotations GNT).

2. Starting Line

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20
We don’t expect a Thanksgiving cheer from the cynical “Preacher” of Ecclesiastes, but he gives us a starting point for our celebration: “the best thing we can do is eat and drink and enjoy what we have worked for during the short life that God has given us” (v. 18). This is essentially how many of our neighbors (and some parishioners) keep the feast—with a nod toward heaven for the bounty they’ve earned. Now pass the yams.

But the author takes another step toward a genuine spiritual moment. “If God gives us wealth and property and lets us enjoy them, we should be grateful and enjoy what we have worked for. It is a gift from God” (v. 19).

If you’re speaking at a community gathering, this might be a helpful text—allowing you to expound winsomely on other gifts of God.

3. Giving to the Giver

1 Chronicles 29:9-18
If you take a special offering at Thanksgiving, and especially if this is connected to a building project, consider David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29. While the Lord wasn’t letting him build the Temple, David did collect building materials. There was a massive outpouring of support from the people, but the king’s gratitude was directed heavenward. “All riches and wealth come from you…Now, our God, we give you thanks” (vv. 12a, 13).

Verse 14 is perhaps the clearest definition of faith-giving you’ll ever see: “Yet my people and I cannot really give you anything, because everything is a gift from you, and we have only given back what is yours already.”

4. A Worship Service in One Verse

Isaiah 12:4
Need a quick refresher on biblical worship? Unpack this verse.

A day is coming when people will sing,
“Give thanks to the Lord! Call for him to help you!
Tell all the nations what he has done!
Tell them how great he is!…”
(Isaiah 12:4).

You have your singing, your thanking, your petitions. You’re proclaiming God’s identity and his deeds. It’s all here!

5. Share the Celebration

Deuteronomy 26:11
“Be grateful for the good things that the Lord your God has given you and your family; and let the Levites and the foreigners who live among you join in the celebration” (Deut 26:11).

Once they settled in the Promised Land, the Israelites would mostly be farmers. So the Law prescribes offerings of produce—in this chapter the first fruits of the harvest. But not everyone owned land. Levites were dedicated to Tabernacle work, and there were foreigners living there temporarily. Yet here an invitation is extended to those who might otherwise be excluded.

On this principle, should we be looking for others to welcome into our Thanksgiving celebrations—both those who have given up material wealth to serve the Lord and those of other cultures who may be living nearby?

6. Thanks for Nothing

1 Peter 4:12-16
The New Testament repeats a shocking idea—that we should rejoice in our suffering, especially if we are suffering for God’s sake (Matt 5:11-12; Acts 5:41; Rom 5:3-5; Phil 2:17-18; Jas 1:2-4). Peter’s first epistle is full of helpful insight on the subject of suffering.

Around the world, Christians are suffering for their faith, and even in America some are feeling persecuted. But this mustn’t dampen our thanksgiving. “If you suffer because you are a Christian,” Peter says, “don't be ashamed of it, but thank God that you bear Christ's name” (v. 16).

7. Summoning or Sending

1 Peter 1:3-5
Looking for a good call to worship, or a benediction? Peter can help us again, perhaps with a fresher tone in the Good News Translation.

“Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope, and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away. They are for you, who through faith are kept safe by God's power for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the end of time.”

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Randy Petersen
Randy Petersen

Randy Petersen is Director of Scripture Engagement Content for American Bible Society. Writer of more than sixty books and hundreds of church curriculum lessons, he has also served churches as a Bible teacher, small-groups coordinator, drama director, preaching consultant and softball pitcher.

Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.

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