When we were studying Japanese, one day I told my teacher that my husband did the washing. She corrected me because I had failed to use the sentence pattern that shows gratitude for an action received. Well, to be honest I wasn’t consciously grateful. We were both studying Japanese full time, so we had split up the household jobs. It seemed only fair that he did the washing. But once she had mentioned it, I supposed I was thankful really.
This introduced me to the importance of expressing thanks in Japanese language and culture. As I learnt to use this grammar pattern, my eyes opened to how many things I can be thankful for. Japanese Christians’ heartfelt gratitude for “normal” things challenged me. As I listened to prayers of thanks for the fact that we could meet together, or the blessing of praying together, or the grace of sharing communion together, God exposed my cynicism and led me to repent.
Romans 1:17, in explaining the all-encompassing problem of sin, tells us “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.” The sin of not giving thanks leads us away from God and into darkness.
Sin as ingratitude is a concept that I’ve found can connect with people here. People find it easy to understand how wrong it is because of its cultural relevance. Once you have laid the foundations that God is the Creator, the one who has given us life and everything, then it naturally follows that it is right to express thanks to him.
During covid I made a video for kids about Jesus healing the ten lepers but only only one returning to say thank you. After I posted it on our church’s YouTube channel, my not yet believing (adult) friend messaged me straight away telling me the things she wanted to thank God for.
But those foundations are key! When most Japanese have never heard of the Creator God, how can they say thank you to him? Not knowing who to thank can lead to thanking the gift instead of the giver. As we introduce people to their Creator, we are inviting them to join in the song of thanks to their Maker.
By Sian, an OMF Missionary