Let me set the scene for you. Thanksgiving Day. After having their hands slapped a few times in failed food-snitching attempts, the family finally sits down around the table to enjoy the feast. Grandma says, “Let’s go around the table and say what we are thankful for.” After a few slight groans, our cast of characters obliges.
Grandpa: “I’m thankful for pecan pie.” (Pee-can, not to be confused with pe-cahn, by the way.)
Aunt Nancy: “I’m thankful for this lovely weather we’ve been having.”
Big brother Joe: “I’m thankful for football.”
Mom: “I’m thankful that we’re all together, and we’ve only had one political argument.”
Cousin Katie: “I’m thankful for our new puppy.”
Little sister Maggie: “I’m thankful for every spiritual blessing in Christ!”
Scritch! Wait, what?
Maggie, age 5, continues: “Yep, I’m grateful that God chose us to be adopted as sons and daughters and for the redemption through his blood and the forgiveness of sins. I’m thankful that he made known to us the mystery of his will, that he will bring all things in heaven and on earth together under himself and that we are marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.”
Sounds exactly like your family Thanksgiving, no? If you’ve ever had a little thankfulness jam session around the table, you might have heard many of the typical responses … family members are thankful for the food, their houses, good friends, decent health, stable jobs and government. And it is good to recognize and be thankful for these things. But note what they all have in common: these are all physical blessings, earthly blessings, temporal blessings. And as such, in the blink of an eye, these can disappear. We need only to watch the news to see how fleeting these blessings can be. Mass shootings, government corruption, inflation, and job loss. Our houses can burn down or be repossessed. We are one doctor’s appointment away from bad news. The new puppy runs out into the middle of a busy road. (Wow, did I really just kill off Katie’s new puppy in a blog post to make a point? I think I did.) But it’s okay—precocious little Maggie will bring us back and save the blog.
“Every spiritual blessing!” she cries. To be fair, she took that from the apostle Paul, who wrote this in a letter to the Ephesians:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. … When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (1:3-10,13,14)
Spiritual blessings. Eternal blessings. Blessings that are freely given by the grace of God. Blessings that cannot spoil or fade or be taken away from us. Blessings that we cannot possibly comprehend. Forgiveness and redemption. Adoption into God’s family. Being marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance! A deposit free from earthly inflation problems, protected from any It’s a Wonderful Life-esque run on the bank system.
Amazingly we also have a lot of physical blessings, and we can and should be extremely grateful for everything our Father in heaven has given us. But if we only focus on the physical and temporal things, it is pretty easy to fall into despair. There’s a lot of bad stuff that happens: cancer, bombings, earthquakes, depression, family arguments, dead puppies (sorry, Katie). But if we can fix our eyes on Jesus, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), we see and know the spiritual blessings he has given us, not just in the world to come but already here and now. We can have great peace and joy and gratitude around the table. And through our gratitude, we can point people to Jesus—when they ask us what we can possibly be grateful for in this day and age, we can answer with the confidence of little Maggie: “Every spiritual blessing!”