Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
—Ephesians 5:20 (KJV)
It is impossible to really praise the Lord without being thankful for all that He has done and trusting Him for all He is going to do. If we remove thankfulness from our lives—if we dwell on our problems instead of focusing on God, it is very easy to start glorifying our problems instead of praising God. This scripture is not encouraging me to give thanks to God for all the bad things that happen in my life. It encourages me to praise God no matter what my circumstances.
Ephesians 5:20 is a verse that has been used to teach that everything that happens in our lives comes from God. We live in a fallen world where the enemy comes against God’s children. God is love. He is the author of all that is love—of all that is good in my life. Satan is the author of everything that is evil. Satan comes against us trying to steal, kill, and destroy our faith. Jesus came to give us abundant life (John 10:10). If I praise God for the evil in my life, I give praise to the enemy for the destruction he brings. Yes, we can learn from the evil that comes against us (Romans 8:28), but learning from something bad in our lives does not mean that God is the author of it.
In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
—1 Thessalonians 5:18
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul addressed the specifics of the Thessalonians’ faith and the actions that were to be the result of it—such as rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in all circumstances. In Ephesians 5:20, Paul was not using the phrase “giving thanks for” literally. He expected the Ephesians to have an understanding that they were not to praise God for evil in their lives.
Paul’s whole letter to the Ephesians was to encourage them to know and engage what they had received in Christ. In his teaching, Paul expected them to have a rudimentary understanding of their faith. He expected that they would know it was wrong to praise God for the evil the enemy causes. Another phrase Paul used in Ephesians 5:20, which showed that he expected them to have a rudimentary understanding, was instructing them to give thanks “unto God and the Father.” Paul expected them to know that his use of the phrase “unto God and the Father” did not mean that there were two separate entities they were to thank. He expected them to believe He was speaking of giving thanks no matter what their circumstances to the one God, their Father.
Often, we say words that if analyzed too literally, give the wrong impression. At some point in our lives, we have probably used the phrase, “everybody is doing it.” Do we really mean that every person in the world is doing what we spoke about? Of course not. And anyone who would try to base an argument on that reasoning would be considered foolish.
Paul certainly never expected Christians to believe that things like murder and a mass of other evil things were all blessings from God. He certainly does not expect us to praise God for evil. He saw no need to make his statement in this verse any clearer.
It is so important to study all the Scripture so that we know what God expects—to know and experience His will for our lives. In all things—no matter what you face—no matter what evil the enemy throws at you, trust the Lord, your God, your Father. Praise Him for the truth that the Word reveals—not for the lies of the enemy attempting to destroy your faith.
Give praise to God for the good. Give praise to God in the bad but don’t give him credit for it. Give credit where it is due.