What Does “Thank You” Mean Anyway?

This week’s (USA) Thanksgiving post is excerpted from my latest ebook, The Why and How of Bible Translation: What Every Christian Should Know, But Few Do. Read it here and then, at the end, consider one way to put your gratitude into practice.

While translating the Bible with the Canela people of Brazil, my wife and I ran into a problem—we could not find a simple word or phrase for the concept carried in English by such words as gratitude, thanksgiving, grateful, thankful, and “Thank you.”

Were the Canelas never grateful? we wondered. And if they were, how did they express it? We knew we had to find a solution. After all, thanksgiving is a major, basic biblical virtue.

We asked ourselves, “What is implied when we say, ‘Thanks’?”
Here is our list:

  1. I had a need—something I didn’t have, or some problem I could not solve by myself.
  2. You had what I needed.
  3. You became aware of my need.
  4. You realized you could help me by supplying my need.
  5. You made the effort to give me what I needed.
  6. What you gave to me, or did for me, was good; it perfectly fit my need.
  7. I am now satisfied and happy.
  8. I feel a sense of debt to you.
  9. I acknowledge what you did by saying something to you.

Once we compiled the list, we saw immediately how Canelas expressed gratitude. When receiving something they sometimes said, “Ita ahna, impej,” meaning, “It’s right, it’s good,” expressing #6 on the list.

When they were very pleased with a gift they would say, “Ate ima hor pyren, ijakry!” meaning “Because you gave it to me, I am happy!” expressing #7.

Other cultures focus on different aspects. For instance, Brazilians say “Obrigado” meaning “I am obligated to you” expressing #8.

Several cultures say, “I’m terribly sorry” which focuses on #5, the fact that the giver freely took the time and trouble to meet their need.

Human Babies: the Most Self-Centered Beings on Earth
Expressing gratitude does not come naturally to us. Not surprising since we start life as babies—the most self-centered beings on earth. It is all about our food, our comfort, and our pleasure. As small children, we have to learn that it’s not all about us. We need to learn to be aware of others, to share toys, to await our turn, and to be aware of the rights of other people.

Selfish ingratitude has a history as long as the age of the universe. It started with Satan, the most impressive, beautiful and powerful angel created by God. Satan owed everything he was and all his abilities to God who created him, yet was not thankful. He refused to acknowledge God as superior, the Great Provider, and instead launched an angelic rebellion to usurp the throne of God.

Ever since being expelled from heaven, Satan has polluted the minds and wills of people with his ungrateful attitude. The apostle Paul describes people under the power of Satan, “. . . they neither glorified God nor gave thanks to Him . . . ” Romans 1:21 (NIV).

5,000 people dead, 600,000 homeless and hungry

5,000 people dead, 600,000 homeless and hungry

A Unique Way to Express Thanks to God
When I saw the newscasts of the devastation in the Philippines caused by typhoon Haiyan, my gratitude for being spared such suffering took the form of #8, I felt a sense of debt that moved me to pray for, and contribute to, disaster relief efforts there.

If you click on this link,  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/364616  and buy the Why and How of Bible Translation ebook before December 9, I will donate the $3.00 profit I get from each sale to the World Vision Typhoon Haiyan Disaster Relief Fund.

The Canadian government will match my $3.00 gift dollar for dollar, which means that if you spend $3.99 to buy this book, $6.00 will go to the Typhoon Haiyan Fund. (1,000 sales would generate $6,000 for the Fund.)

Or you might want to show your gratitude to God, and concern for the suffering, by donating a larger amount directly to this fund through clicking this link.

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