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The Spiritual Discipline of Feasting

As we head to the table on Thanksgiving for a feasting of turkey, stuffing, corn pudding, and sweet potato pie, I wonder how much time we will really spend in giving thanks to God for the bountiful blessing we have received. This thought came to me while reading Deuteronomy 14:26.

“…go to the place that the Lord your God choosesand spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household”[1]


It reminded me of something from a work by Isaac Ambrose called, Prima, Media, Ultima. If you are looking for some light reading, this is not the book. Nevertheless, it is very rich in content. (Click here to learn about Isaac Ambrose). In this book, there is a short section called of the duties before thanksgiving or feasting. To my knowledge, I cannot recall anyone ever writing on the spiritual discipline of feasting. But in it are many gold nuggets for us to apply in their own walk with Christ. Therefore, I will attempt to pass this along in a much easier read that you may apply it to your own Thanksgiving feast this year.

The Duty of Feasting

In 1 Corinthians 10:31 we are instructed to perform whatever task we set before us with the expressed purpose of glorifying God. This echoes my meditation verse previously mentioned of Deut 14:26, “And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.” When applying this to the upcoming holiday of Thanksgiving we should be careful to approach our time of feasting with true thanksgiving of the heart focused on glorifying and enjoying our Savior. To prepare our hearts for this, Ambrose gives us some instruction to stir them up.

Preparing for our Feast

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”[2]

In preparation for the feast, Isaac Ambrose encourages his readers to spend time in meditation. This, of course, is not the mind-emptying meditation of pagan religions, but rather the mind-filling of scripture and the things of God.

…in His law he meditates day and night” –Psalm 1:2

Ambrose suggests this meditation focuses on God’s undeserved bounty towards us and our own unworthiness.[3] (Gen 32:9-10) This then ought to develop in us a craving for the assistance of God’s Spirit to enable us to praise him, because we lack the ability in our own strength.

Inward and Outward Duty of Thanksgiving

Thankfulness is manifested in two ways; inwardly and outwardly. Inwardly it is a thankfulness of the soul, a mindfulness, and acknowledging of God’s blessing towards us. Often these blessings go unnoticed in our lives, so we must be diligent to stir up our remembrance of God’s grace that abounds.

“…take care lest you forget the LORD” – Deut 6:12

Beyond acknowledging God’s benefits in our lives, we must also acknowledge the extreme mercy this represents because of our unfitness to receive these gifts and blessings.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights...” – James 1:17

God’s benefits in our lives should also be esteemed by us. We should endeavor to amplify them in respect to their greatness, excellency, profit, necessity, sufficiency[3] thereby acknowledging God’s wisdom and goodness in it. If this acknowledgment in your soul is from a work of the Spirit it will certainly cause us to increase our love of God and drive us towards having a thankful heart.

A Cheerful Heart

A thankful heart should be a cheerful one. God loves a cheerful giver; he also loves a cheerful thanksgiver.[3]

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,” – Phil 1:3-4

This moves us to the outward display of thankfulness before our feasting. We should express this inward thanks and cheerfulness towards God in our actions. This can be expressed in many ways by celebrating, praising God’s name, extolling his praises, recounting his mercies, and exciting others to praise God.[3] 

The chief end of our feasting this Thanksgiving is not to stretch our stomachs and add a few pounds. Rather, it is to honor God with our excess as the giver of all life and substance. Christ is most gracious to his own and the church. Let us bring praise and honor to Him as the chief Lord of all we have.

Go feast and praise God!

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Dt 14:25–26.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 10:31.

[3] Prima, Media, Ultima.