When we receive a gift, we have a natural desire to do something for the giver. Perhaps it is our intuitive sense of justice which tells us that good deeds ought to be repaid.
Of course, the way this life is structured, it is impossible for us to pay back many of those who have served and blessed us. How can a child repay his or her mother, for example? There is no gift a child can give which would be equivalent in value to the gift of life and the years of nurturing, inspiring, and training they received.
The word “render” has multiple meanings. One of those is “to give in acknowledgment of dependence or obligation” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). In other words, to reward or compensate someone for something they have given to you.
For example, when the apostle Paul asks the Thessalonians, “What thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God?” he is lamenting his inability to compensate God for the great blessings he has received. Gratitude seems like a feeble offering compared with the joy he has received.
The Greek word translated “render” in this passage, antapodidómi (ἀνταποδίδωμι), means “to pay back” or “to recompense.” (anti means “back,” apo means “from” and didomi means “to give”).
When King Benjamin’s gathered his people near the end of his life to give them his final words of counsel, he reminded them that, if they were to “render” to God “all the thanks and praise” which they were capable of giving, they would still be “unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:20-21). He listed a number of things God has done for us, including:
- Creating us
- Preserving us from day to day (and even “from moment to moment”)
- Making us free to make our own decisions
- Giving us joy
- Making it possible for us to enjoy relationships with other people
Then, King Benjamin went on to explain the futility of our efforts to serve God: every time we obey His commandments, thinking we are somehow paying Him back for these undeserved blessings, He blesses us again. “And therefore, he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever” (Mosiah 2:24).
Benjamin’s objective in sharing these truths was not to discourage us. It was to inspire us. You will never be able to repay God, but you have every reason to try. You may not be able to repay your parents, your teachers, and others who have given you far more than you ever can give in return, but as you “render” thanks to them, you do the best you can.
That’s the message I get from Benjamin’s words, and from Paul’s: We should “render all the thanks and praise which [our] whole soul has power to possess” to God. Why? Because He has given us so much. It is incumbent upon us to do whatever we can in return, even if it will never be enough.
Today, I will render thanks to God. I will remember how much He has done and is still doing for me. Even though my gratitude will never be enough to repay Him, I will continue to give it, because it is what I can give.