Ideally this question is addressed to non-Calvinists...to those who believe in free will and that much of what is wrong with the world (e.g. genetically unhealthy infants) is due to the existence of sin and evil.

Why do Christians thank God for having a health baby? For scoring a touchdown? For anything good in life?

On the one hand we have nothing without God. But why be so specific, since it seems that he doesn't control EVERYTHING because of free will and unless you take the Calvinist route, there is a great deal of fuzziness about how much control God wants to have over such things.

I am looking less for an abstract answer than for a simple answer a child could understand. Though BOTH would be nice. Thanks!

3 Answers 3


I don't know if this is a constructive question per the site's definition. It is right on the line between being a "Pastoral Advice" question and something that can be answered doctrinally, but since it can be answered partly based on Scripture (and partly based on subjective reasons) and the fact that these principles are generally applicable and agreed upon my Christians of all walks, I'll give it a shot.

The most probable reason is also the most subjective: Because we are appreciative and thankful for specific things.

Addressing your request that is simple enough for a child to understand, the above is probably simple enough for a child under the age of five or so. The rest is probably too much for that age, but may be OK for kids that are older. It helps if they know the verses, and the rest explains things in more human terms, using the verses as a framework.

It's the same reason my kids thank me when I surprise them with a trip to the park to play, or a trip to the ice cream shop. It's why I thank my wife when she cleans up a mess the kids made so I don't have to or vice-versa. Because we understand the value of little things, and because we love each other and want each other to know we are appreciated. If we love God, we'll do the same. It's just a natural extension of love and a thankful spirit.

As far as reasons that can be backed up Scripturally: (These Scriptures lay out principles that tie in to the ideas in the more subjective section that follows them.)

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.))

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

James 1:17 (King James Version)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

The meat of your question seems to be in this area: If we believe in free will, how can we think that God gave us each individual specific thing, so I'll address that here.

Note that the belief in free will does not nullify the preceding Scripture. The belief in free will is one of the foundational beliefs in my perspective, but I still believe all good things come from God.

To those of us that believe that sin and suffering are a result of man's free will, it doesn't nullify the fact that in order for something "bad" to happen, God has to allow it to happen. There's a difference between allowing something to happen and causing something to happen. In His sovereignty, He is certainly capable of intervening to stop a situation, or to manipulate the situation to alter our decisions.

We don't deny His sovereignty. Free will isn't incompatible with the Sovereignty of God from an Arminian perspective.

With this, we also accept that the good things come because He has allowed it, or that He has caused circumstances to be such that that the good things have come from Him.

Getting back to more general reasons we give thanks for every little thing, now that the above portion has been addressed...

1 Thessalonians 5:17 King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)

Pray without ceasing.

The last one may not be obvious to everyone as far as why it's relevant here, but one of the easiest ways to pray throughout the day is to simply get in the habit of praying a quick prayer of thanks for the little things, like the ones you're asking about. Getting back to the subjective (but remaining in the realm of common sense that most people would agree with)... This is a wonderful way to keep God in your thoughts, to keep your relationship strong.

It also helps us to cultivate that thankful, loving, and kind spirity that we Christians should have.

More subjective - applied psychology or common sense, take your pick

As a side note, keeping God in our hearts and being thankful is a great way to help us to resist temptation to sin. If we are constantly thinking of how great God is, and keeping an inventory of the good things He has done for us (great and small), when temptation arises, we should be thinking "If God has done all this for me, how can I possibly want to do this and make Him angry.

This is what we should feel for our employers if we think of stealing from them, or what our kids should think of us before they do something that will make us ashamed of them. It's simply not wanting to hurt/shame/dishonor someone you love.

Saying constant prayers of thanks helps us to remember that He does do those things for us. And the more we love and appreciate Him, the less we should want to hurt Him, dishonor Him, or know that He is ashamed of us.

Finally, we shouldn't be just thankful for the "good" things in our lives. We should be thankful for everything, even those things that we don't think are good right now.

*Romans 8:28 (KJV) King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)*

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

If we truly believe that verse, then we will understand that even the painful things that happen to us are in accordance with His will, and that He will use those things for good. Keeping that in mind helps us to avoid becoming bitter, it helps us to understand our relationship with Him. (He is God, we are merely created beings subject to His will), and it reminds us to trust Him, having Faith that He will keep His word. Most Christian denominations teach that trials and tribulation purifies us - they make us stronger. We should be thankful for that, as well. That's a bit harder to do.

  • Thanks for your answer. I'm most interested in how to explain this to people who are not naturally grateful. A better analogy would be one in which your wife did something which produced an at least apparently unintended consequence which benefits you. The psychological explanation makes sense, but I wonder most about an understanding of the REALITY of what is done and willed by God vis-a-vis us. Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 22:36

First, you have to realize that Christians come in different stages of Spiritual maturity.

If you expect a brand new believer to be thankful (and understand why) or to be thankful for the wrongs in the world, then it is the same thinking that expects a toddler to be able to write a doctoral thesis (and understand why). It does not work because the capacity is not there yet.

Being thankful for specific things in life requires you to know God first. If you have not experienced the goodness of God (including His being there with you in your lowest points in life), then you will not really know why you ought to be thankful.

A one-time deep sense of gratefulness can be triggered by a profound realization of what the other has done for you. For example you are saved from drowning by a lifeguard.

But a continuous sense of thankfulness can only stem out of a deep relationship. Don't try to understand why we ought to be thankful to God yet, make sure you understand what a deep relationship with God means first, and why we need it so badly.

Hope this helps as a way to think about the question. And thank you for a good question asked.

  • Welcome to the site! Very good points. This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 19:01

Well, David has given a more than adequate answer, so I guess I'll make a simplified one. The above answer brought out James 1:17. It is up to the man to decide what he gives thanks for, but we have God to thank for everything.

Usually we give thanks when we have something happen we asked for or something good that sparks our memory to give thanks. We really should be praising God for more than just health and such, so that giving thanks for Gods generosity isn't forgotten. That is what it really comes down to. Life is hectic and we are busy. Sometimes people don't give credit when its due. I would rather over praise God than to forget to do it entirely.

Your analogy of the wife is a good way to illustrate. Your wife does something nice for you. In order to make her feel appreciated you give her thanks. In this way we show God that we don't take anything for granted and that we recognize everything he does for us.

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