In this same verse, Paul goes on to say that those who “knew God” did not treat Him as such. To use Paul’s words, “they did not honor him as God.” They withheld from God the honor, glory, praise, and adoration that was rightfully His. They neglected to give Him that which was His due. They robbed God, as it were, from the honor He deserved as their Creator and King (Ecclesiastes 12.1; Isaiah 6.3, 8.13, 48.11).
According to Paul, this failure to honor God, as described above, also coincides with a lack of thankfulness. A failure to honor God and a thankless heart are joined together in this passage, and really form the hinge upon which the entire chapter turns. These two actions seem to go hand-&-hand. Paul presents them as companions of sort. In the heart of a man, this type of selfish, thankless soil cultivates fleshly seeds and produces the crop of unrighteousness described later in the chapter.
As believers, we ought to strive with all of our might to “walk as children of the light” (Ephesians 5.8b). We should not even begin down the dark path Paul describes in the remaining verses of Romans 1 (which the rest of the unbelieving world unknowingly follows–Ephesians 2.1-3). But, it all starts here: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, …” (Romans 1.21a). That is to say that it all starts with our view of God and our esteem of Him.
So if you do not find yourself feeling particularly thankful this holiday season, then ask yourself a few “heart questions.” Seek to “exegete your heart,” as preachers of old have said. Draw out the root cause of your callousness and deal with it as sin before the Lord.
With regard to honoring God, ask yourself whether you are truly esteeming Him as you ought. Are you finding yourself reverent in prayer and attitude toward Him? Are you entering His presence with a fearful awe? Are you aware of the fact that your very life and breath are a gift from God? Are you utterly humbled by the fact that a lowly sinful creature, such as yourself, has been given the opportunity through Christ to be reconciled to the holy Creator of the universe (and of your soul) in a right relationship and that you have been given the opportunity to commune with such a One? On the flip-side of the coin with regard to thankfulness, in your time alone with the Lord, are you reminding yourself moment-by-moment that all that you have been given spiritually and physically has been graciously provided for you by Another? Are you deeply aware of the weight of your sin before Him and subsequently aware of the burden of sin that Christ bore on Calvary on your behalf?
If not, then go back to the cross, my friend. Look back unto Calvary to be reminded of all that Christ has accomplished for you. And stay there in much confession and prayer until your soul is able (by the Holy Spirit’s enabling) to yield genuine honor and thanksgiving to your Creator this holiday season.