1 Timothy 4:1–5 (ESV)
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
The other day I was thinking about what it means when we say, “Thank you.” We say thank you when someone helps us out, we give thanks for meals, sometimes we write thank you notes, and occasionally we give a gift to another person as a way of expressing our thanks. Those are all wonderful things to do, but what does it truly mean to give thanks, to stop, and truly be thankful, especially to the Lord?
In this passage, Paul is providing Timothy with further instruction and encouragement regarding Timothy’s ministry and leadership, and here, Paul is going to give Timothy an important key in ministry, the key of thanksgiving.
First, Paul gives Timothy instructions regarding how to handle people that are going down the wrong path. It’s interesting to read what Paul says will happen. Some people will fall away from their faith. He understands that there will be false teachers who are going to mess with the Gospel message and lead others astray by saying that things God created (certain foods, marriage, sex, just to name a few) should be forbidden because these people feel that those things are bad. Paul counters by saying that when this happens, Timothy is to remember that everything God created is good. (You can also see that thought reflected in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians).
The key to understanding this instruction from Paul is found in verse four. Did you catch it in the passage? It’s thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is always part of Paul’s letters and is key to understanding the culture and the world around him. For Paul, thanksgiving is more than just a recognition of God and His provision for us.
Biblical thanksgiving does two things for us:
When we give thanks to God for, well anything, it keeps us from slipping into idolatry. We recognize that God alone is sovereign, the source, the Creator, and Maker of everything, which prevents us from worshipping something created.
Giving thanks also prevents us from labeling neutral things in creation as bad or evil, (such as food, marriage, or sex). All those things are created by God and are good as long as - and please hear me on this - they are exercised in their proper form and context as God intends.
Thanksgiving is key because it couples God’s Word, which affirms the goodness of creation (Genesis 1), with grateful prayer for God’s provision (which provides us with proper boundaries which recognize God’s intended purposes for those created pleasures).
So, when we give thanks, we’re not simply saying “thank you” for a gift of provision, we’re acknowledging God’s goodness and purpose in all that He has provided for us. This enables us to enjoy God’s gifts as He intends for us to enjoy them.
But there’s something else incredible that happens when we slow down and take a moment to truly give thanks. In that moment we recognize and encounter the presence of the Lord with us. True, He is always with us. But when we pause, even for a moment, and give thanks, we acknowledge His presence with us.
That changes things a bit doesn’t it, most notably when we pray and give thanks for another person.
God bless you and know that I am praying for you constantly.
1 Timothy 4:1–5 (ESV)