Professional Thanksgiver: Could you do it?

I read the last two chapters of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah this morning, as a part of my annual “Read Through the Bible” program, and ran across this passage:

And the Levites were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah who was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving, he and his brothers. [Neh. 12:8, NAS]

The book of Nehemiah (along with its companion, Ezra) is the account of the efforts by the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple following their destruction by invading armies. Nehemiah served as the wine taster (cupbearer) for King Artaxerxes, king of Persia, who permitted Nehemiah to travel to Jerusalem to oversee the rebuilding of the walls of the city. The Lord’s favor upon the Jewish people is seen clearly throughout this account, as even pagan royalty provides resources and protection for their efforts.

Anyway, the passage quoted above is not important in the overall scheme of things, but it still caught my imagination. Talk about a focused job description: “You’re going to be in charge of the singing, but not of just any songs. Nope; you’re in charge of the songs of thanks.”

I’ll admit that I have no idea if Mattaniah was supposed to write those songs, or catalog them, or sing them, or lead the choir in their singing, but the passage is loose enough to make one think that perhaps it’s all of the above. And I wonder…how would you do that? It would seem that in order to fulfill this responsibility, one would have to live in a constant state of appreciation of one’s blessings. That’s hard to do even during the most pleasant and least stressful of times. I daresay that we don’t even recognize that we’ve been in those times until things get worse, at which point we’re even less inclined to give thanks.

Living with a persistent attitude of gratitude is not easy for most of us to do, but it’s important enough that even the angels in heaven make it a priority. Maybe we need to try to incorporate it into our life’s “job description,” as well.

Categorized as Faith


  1. …and here we are (continuing on with my comment from the post about drinking from the trash). This is just the kind of dichotomy that keeps us coming back for more. 😉

  2. And thus the reason for the popularity of such modern day song titles as “Live Like You Were Dying” (Tim McGraw) Not that most of Mr. McGraw’s titles would put him up next to your man, Mattaniah. But still, it speaks to our inner yearnings to strive for “a persistent attitude of gratitude.” However elusive it is for us in our human state….
    Long live the songwriters!
    (And the book by the same name by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman ain’t so bad either…)

  3. Sherry, do you really think we have inner yearnings to strive for “a persistent attitude of gratitude.”? Because I seem to fall short in that area quite often. I yearn to be blessed so bounteously that I might be able to work up such an attitude, but I confess that in normal everyday life I find myself focusing more on the challenges than the blessings.
    I haven’t read the book you mention. It sounds familiar…

  4. Eric, of course I can’t speak for everyone, but yes, I recognize that desire–that inner yearning–in myself. Achieved it, no. Desire it, yes indeed!
    Must be that chemo cocktail…

  5. This is something I work on all the time – but I can’t say it’s an inner desire. It’s very clearly for me a desire that I had to choose. (vs. my inner desire to get way more sleep than I do or to eat regular meals) I don’t even have to think about those, this one I have to choose, sometimes hourly, sometimes more often than that.
    I do think though that this is easier for some people than others. I have been around a few people in my lifetime who geniunely were just that thankful – constantly. I don’t know if it’s the result of practice or if there was a more natural inclination in the first place, but I imagine that those whom God sets aside specifically be professional Thanks-givers He also specifically equips with the tools to make that a bit easier – just like He equips those He calls to be teachers to teach or pastors to pastor or musicians to make music, etc. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all strive for that same attitude, but the effectiveness of one who preaches who is called to preach is going to be more than one who preaches who has a different call. (I guess to me this is like evangelism – we should all evangelize, but to some are given the Spiritual Gift of evangelism and they are going to be more effective than the rest of us, because they have been specially equipped – but it doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook.)
    I’m rambling, I’m sorry – it’s early (see the sleep comment) – but my last semi-point is that, while the songs “Live like you were dying” etc may be popular, how many of the people who embrace those songs – or movies like Dead Poets Society (Carpe Diem) – are really thinking about it from an eternal perspective? My guess is few. They are, at least in my experience (and sadly to some degree this has even been true of how I’ve viewed the same) looking at it from a “go ahead and take the risk – don’t put off until tomorrow – etc. kind of thing. Go skydivign if you want to.” – a much more self-focused, experiential mindset. And in fact I’ve known teens who tried to use that as a backup for why they should sleep with their boy or girlfriends cause if they’re dying tomorrow, they don’t want to have missed out. So I think Christians need to temper the ideas of “Live like you were dying” with “but remember you’re living for eternity thereafter”.

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