Thanksgiving is more than a day. Thanksgiving is more than an attitude. Thanksgiving is a way of living.

Perhaps, like many families, you and your loved ones take a few moments at the table, before you partake of the delicious food, to give every person a chance to express for what and for whom he or she is most thankful. These expressions of gratitude continue around the table until everyone has had the chance to share with the rest how thankful they really are. But when this national day of thanks ends, and the turkey, dressing and fixings are put in the fridge for leftovers, the expressions of the day are often put away until it is necessary to bring them out for the next Thanksgiving Day.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not being cynical about this holiday. I do appreciate the fact that we have a national holiday set aside for the purpose of giving thanks. I also believe that this day serves a grand, and yet, humbling purpose as a yearly reminder of our need to give thanks to God and to appreciate what is truly valuable in this life. But thanksgiving must be more to us than just a day.

Scripture tells us that we are to give thanks continually and in all circumstances. Thanksgiving is not something we do only on one day out of the year when we feel all warm and cozy in our nice homes, gathered around a table of good food with the people we love. No, thankfulness is something we are to express every day of the year as we live, work, play, and yes, even suffer among our family, friends, acquaintances, and yes, even our enemies. We are to have attitudes of thanksgiving at all times and in all situations.

But is being thankful fully captured by simply having attitudes of thanksgiving? Can we honestly say that being thankful is merely an attitude we are to carry throughout our lives? To answer this, let us return to the events of the day we call Thanksgiving. We gather with family and friends in our warm and beautiful homes. We eat plenty of food; most often more than we need. And we cap off the day with a relaxing afternoon. Sure, we express our thankfulness through words to one another, and even words we offer to God. But are words and attitudes the true measure of thanksgiving? Can we honestly say that merely mouthing phrases of thanks to one another or to God means that we are actually thankful?

Thanksgiving is not just an attitude; it is a way of living. To express true thankfulness to God for the blessings we have received, we must do so through tangible acts of love and service to God and to those around us. In this way, thanksgiving is much like love, and indeed it is an expression of love. Love is not simply the feeling of love we have for others. Love can only be defined by the act of expressing love. Love cannot be love if it is only felt. Love becomes real when it is expressed through loving acts.

In the same way, thanksgiving is more than an attitude; and it is certainly more than a national holiday. Expressing thanks to God and to others is a way of living that is articulated through tangible acts of gratitude, service and love. Indeed, thanksgiving is the seed that produces the fruit of kindness and generosity. True thanksgiving is sharing in the blessings of God through participating in God’s work and sharing of the blessings of God with those around us through acts of love, kindness, and generosity.

So as you gather to celebrate this wonderful holiday, be thankful as you share fellowship with your family and friends, as you eat the delicious meal and as you enjoy the day we have set aside to give thanks. But bear in mind that thanksgiving extends to all aspects of life with God and others. Thanksgiving is more than a day. Thanksgiving is more than an attitude. Thanksgiving is a way of living.

Drew Smith, an ordained Baptist minister, is director of international programs at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark. He blogs at Wilderness Preacher.

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