the shape of leadership

A Grateful Heart

Review of ‘Gratitude’ by Cornelius Plantinga

Heather Weber on April 16, 2024

I recently received an email with the subject header, “Thanks, actually.”

The message was from a digital services company. It went on to express gratitude for the opportunity to “deliver happiness … every single day.”

It’s a dramatic claim from a company facilitating online meetings. But the marketing strategy is not unique. For years, businesses have used gratitude as a way to connect with customers.

Similarly, individuals often seek to leverage the power of thankfulness. Some people keep gratitude journals or participate in social media gratitude challenges, hoping to experience the touted psychological and physical health benefits of such positivity.

Christians, however, are called to a deeper kind of gratitude. In Gratitude: Why Giving Thanks Is the Key to Our Well-Being, Cornelius Plantinga examines what the Bible says about a thankful heart.

Gratitude in the New Testament is linked to the Greek word eucharista, or “giving thanks.” Just before His crucifixion, Jesus gave thanks as He shared the Last Supper with His disciples (Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17; 1 Corinthians 11:24).

The English word Eucharist derives from eucharista. Protestants more commonly refer to this observance of the Lord’s Supper as Communion.

In Scripture, eucharista denotes both “grace” and “gratitude,” epitomizing a faith that centers on God’s gift of grace and our gratitude for it.

Christian gratitude involves acknowledging God as the Giver of all good things and expressing thanks to Him.

Plantinga says Christians should strive for a “grateful disposition,” rather than fleeting moments of “feeling grateful.” Indeed, a heart of gratitude is God’s will for believers (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Alongside theological reasons for Christians to value and cultivate thankfulness, Plantinga describes how gratitude works — the way we develop it, what keeps us from it, and what happens when we have it.

“Gratitude is a glad sense of being gifted with something by someone and thus being indebted to the giver,” Plantinga writes.

Christian gratitude involves acknowledging God as the Giver of all good things and expressing thanks to Him.

Plantinga offers strategies for cultivating gratitude, including reciting the “mighty acts of God” in our lives and in Scripture; reflecting upon the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection; observing small (and easily missed) daily graces; and savoring and celebrating gifts for which we are particularly grateful.

Prevalent attitudes in our culture — such as cynicism, self-sufficiency, greed, apathy and entitlement — can choke out thanksgiving. Yet Christians who overcome these hindrances will experience the many benefits of gratitude. The result is a “virtuous cycle,” in which gratitude yields a harvest of contentment, joy, generosity, improved physical health, and God’s comfort in the midst of grief.

While gratitude should arise from the right motives (honoring and glorifying God), Plantinga acknowledges the perks might just include a better night’s sleep.


Book Reviewed

Cornelius Plantinga, Gratitude: Why Giving Thanks Is the Key to Our Well-Being (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2024).


This article appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Influence magazine.

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