What a useless activity it is to give thanks. What do we get from it? It results in no product, no creation of knowledge. We do not give thanks in order to receive more benefits from our benefactor—at least, when we’re at our best—but simply to recognize the goodness of another’s action.
Yet Aristotle says that the highest activities are the most useless, at least in the utilitarian sense of the word. And the Judeo-Christian tradition places the act of thanksgiving at the heart of their existence. The psalms are filled with the praise and thanksgiving of the people as a response to the salvation of God. The New Testament establishes thanksgiving as fundamental to Christian spiritual life in the institution of the Eucharist.
What is the importance of placing thanksgiving at the heart of our spirituality? The one who gives thanks cannot claim to be the center of the world. Rather, the one who gives thanks acknowledges his relationship to another. When we give thanks, we make an implicit claim that God is greater. That one claim changes the entirety of our relationship to the rest of the world.
Why do we give thanks? We cannot afford not to.