We think a lot about “giving thanks” this time of year.
But did you know that the Israelites of the Old Testament had no word for “thanks” in their language?
There’s a word that gets translated “thanks” in our Bibles, but that word is never used between two people—only between a person and God.
Now, before you think I’m arguing that we should do away with Thanksgiving, Tom Turkey, and grandma’s cranberry relish altogether just because the Old Testament doesn’t have a word for “thanks,” you should know that the Old Testament does have a word for PRAISE. Did you know that the biblical concept of PRAISE is slightly different from our concept of THANKS?
Somebody much smarter than I came up with these 3 differences between THANKS and PRAISE, but here are some things to chew on with your turkey this Thanksgiving:
Praise Lifts Up The One Being Praised
If I thank you for passing the salt and pepper at the Thanksgiving smorgasbord, I haven’t really done anything to you. But I said, “O great passer of the condiments, you are supreme at passing!”—well, I just made a value statement about YOU.
Praise Is Not Forced
Giving thanks can be a polite duty—“Now, say thank you, Bobby.” But praise—well, that’s something that comes from the heart: “You are just wonderful! Did you know that?”
Praise Occurs In A Group
When praise happens in the Psalms, it frequently shows up in a group setting: “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (Ps. 22:22). I can say thank you privately, but biblical praise usually involves lifting someone up publicly together.
So, this Thanksgiving, thank God for His many gifts. But go a step further. Dare to lift up God from your heart in the presence of others. That is the essence of praise!
Praise the LORD!
Praise, O servants of the LORD,
Praise the name of the LORD! (Ps. 113:1)
 These points are adapted from Claus Westermann, Praise and Lament in the Psalms (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981), 25-27.