Thanksgiving, paltriness, and spiritual pornography

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1939 | Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1987-074-16 / CC-BY-SA

The German priest and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in September 1939 the following about the importance of thanksgiving in the Christian life and in the life of the church, a thanksgiving which could blossom even in the paltry, the miserable and insignificant. Less than six years later, he was - for his love of Christ and the Body of Christ - to give his life in a German concentration camp. Read slowly and ponder!

”The bright day of Christian community dawns wherever the early morning mists of dreamy visions are lifting.

‎Thankfulness works in the Christian community as it usually does in the Christian life. Only those who give thanks for little things receive the great things as well. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts prepared for us because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think that we should not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must be constantly seeking the great gifts.13 Then we complain that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experiences that God has given to other Christians, and we consider these complaints to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the small (and yet really not so small!) gifts we receive daily. How can God entrust great things to those who will not gratefully receive the little things from God’s hand? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian community in which we have been placed, even when there are no great experiences, no noticeable riches, but much weakness, difficulty, and little faith—and if, on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so miserable and so insignificant and does not at all live up to our expectations—then we hinder God from letting our community grow according to the measure and riches that are there for us all in Jesus Christ.”

Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, DBW, vol. 5, p. 37.

About these words Kevin Rains comments:

Gratitude and affirmation are in short supply. Sadly, I must admit that I'm not only ingratitude's victim but also its perpetrator. Often I have shrugged off gratitude while embracing discontent. Usually I can justify this in the name of "vision" or "unmet potential." That is, until I read the [above] quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

I can only imagine if this advice were heeded by even a fraction of a local church - the effects could be revolutionary. How many times have I wished I were somewhere else where God was REALLY moving? How many times have I longed to be in a more beautiful place (with mountains or an ocean) and abandon the urban neighborhood where I live? How many times have I fantasized about the perfect fellowship where everyone got along like a perfect family. What this boils down to is spiritual pornography ... creating a mental fantasy of a perfect place or people and not recognizing the good things all around me. This spiritual porn is my nemesis. It's poison. Thankfully, the antidote is available and accessible: equal parts of gratitude and affirmation.

Citerad i Christine D. Pohl, Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us (2011), s 21.


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Posted by Bengt Rasmusson

Bengt Rasmusson är teolog, förläggare och mediakonsult.

Bengt Rasmusson is a theologian, publisher and a media consultant.

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