When a child is growing up in this part of the world, one of the first things that the parents teach him or her is to say “Thank you” for every gift or service offered to them. If a family member gives them a shirt as a gift, the parents go on to ask the child, “What are you supposed to say?”. If the child does not know, they will teach him or her by telling them, “Say, thank you”-then, the child learns to be grateful for things that have been given to him or her. Thankfulness is something deeply embedded in our culture.

It is not a surprise then that thanksgiving is a big part of religiosity, particularly in Christian circles. We even have special thanksgiving worship services in most churches. Thanksgiving is good (Ps. 92:1) but I have found that a few of our thanksgiving songs show a lack of proper understanding of the gospel and how radically it changes our lives and the way we see the world, including how we give thanks.

I was at a friend’s house not too long ago when I heard these words sung from a church across the street: “…give thanks to God because you are in the sanctuary and not in the mortuary”. I had an issue with this. Don’t get me wrong, we ought to be thankful for the gift of life, however, as Christians we cannot precipitate thanksgiving by thinking that we are in a better situation alive than dead.

How do I know that?

I know that because the Bible says, “…to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2Cor. 5:8) is the meaning of death for the Christian. Why would we, if we have our thinking in the same direction as the Bible, think that one of the primary ways we can be grateful for life is to think – “At least I’m alive, I’m better than someone who is dead”? This is secular thinking. Only a man who has a short-sighted view of the world would think that this world is better than the presence of the Lord.

It is hypocrisy

I know that it is hypocrisy because at every news of death and funeral service, one of the very common sentences you will hear is: “Ile aye, ile asan” which translates to “Life, a place of vanity”. I believe this is one of the reasons that the Preacher says “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting” (Ecc. 7:2) because true reality is grasped in death and loss. The same people who with their own mouths proclaim the world to be a place of vanity also are too fearful to leave the world to the promised celestial city. Not only are they fearful of leaving this world, they think death is worse than life in a place of vanity.

Another song

There is another song I would like to also talk about which is sung in the same spirit as the quote above. My hope is that it helps us to see how the gospel of Christ should take us away from singing songs that are Christless. The song is a popular Yoruba song but I will be write out the English translation each line

Ti m’o ba le dupe If I am not thankful

A je p’emi o m’ore Then, I am ungrateful

Ti m’o ba le dupe If I cannot be thankful

A je pe emi o m’ore Then, I am ungrateful

Opo egbe mi ti ku Many of my mates are dead

Opo egbe mi ti lo Many of my mates are gone

Opo lo wa l’ewon Many are in prison

Opo lo nse fine bara kiri Many are beggars

Ti m’o ba le dupe        If I am not thankful

A je pe emi o m’ore    Then, I am ungrateful

This song attempts to do the same thing as the quote I mentioned in the beginning of this article–precipitate gratitude by thinking secularly of how fortunate you are in comparison to your mates. Basically, you are better than your mates that are dead, gone, in prison and beggars. Let me explain why this is opposite gospel thinking.

I already mentioned above why dying is not worse than living, it is in fact, better to die as a Christian (Phil. 1:21) because you are present with the Lord, as the Bible says and what could be better? Nothing.

What about prisoners?

If my mates are in prison but they are Christians like me, if they believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I am not better than them because the only metric that matters is where we spend eternity. We are on the same plane, this is why the gospel is the great leveler.

What more? Think of Christians who are in prison for their faith. Why would you think that you are better than them? Have you not heard: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5: 10).

What more? Some of the apostles were imprisoned for their faith and they are some of the most blessed men we know.

What about beggars?

It is the same for beggars. If they have repented and trusted in Christ as their Lord and Savior, then, we cannot be better than them. In fact, no one can be better than a man in Christ. Think to all the beggars in the Bible who were healed by Jesus or his apostles, they immediately followed Christ.

A biblical example is Lazarus. He was a beggar here on earth but when he died, he was at Abraham’s bosom. The rich man, however, was rich and comfortable on earth but went to hell. The point here is this; The gospel is more important than anything else.

How do we think as Christians?

Needless to say, I am not a fan of the song or the quote I mentioned in this article,I think that they keep us from thinking-in this part of the world- as the Bible and God would have us think.

We ought not to think and segregate in terms of physical appearances (James 2:1-4). This is how the gospel transforms our thinking, we do not compare ourselves based on physical conditions but on spiritual ones.

We should be grateful for life because it is a gift not because we are physically better than some other people. We should be grateful for the gospel because it is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Our gratitude should not be based on our external environmental factors but on the One, the Only wise God who has given us every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) who is unchanging. Therefore, on that basis, our gratitude should be unchanging.


It seems to me that the “Nigerian church”, if I can call it that, needs to return to the gospel and be transformed by it so that we do not think we are better than other people based on our social status.

It is my hope that you, my dear reader, would start to think more in terms of the spiritual state than the physical state because in the end, it would not matter whether you were rich or poor in this world but whether you believe on the Son of God as your Lord and Savior (Luke 16: 20-31).

Thank you for taking the time to read.

About the author

Oluwadara Oloye


  • Thank you, Dara, this is very much true.
    The knowledge of who God is and a biblical understanding of the Gospel are very much lacking in most Churches in Nigeria.
    We’ve been sold the lie of health and wealth Gospel, the gospel that is man-centered and we love it because of our depraved nature.
    Hence our songs reflect our deficient knowledge of God and the gospel.
    May God truly deliver us, thank you for this.

  • Thank you, Dara, this is very true.
    The knowledge of who God truly is and biblical understanding of the gospel is lacking in most Nigerian Churches.
    Hence, most Nigerian gospel songs have shallow theology. May God truly deliver us!!

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