I’ve been thinking a lot lately about entitlement, because I think it is a deadly poison that kills people every day…kills the soul of a person. Entitlement is the notion or belief that one has a right to some type of reward or benefit.
The Christian community is not immune from this kind of thing. There are large segments of Christian teaching that tell us that God wants us to be rich, healthy, and successful (according to the world’s standards). As a result, we have Christians who believe they are entitled to a new car, a big home, and all the other things that the world calls success. We are told that we should “step out in faith” and expect God to provide. We are even told to “expect a miracle” (which leads inevitably to the idea of demanding a miracle). This philosophy clearly describes a sense of spiritual entitlement.
Certainly, God does bless His people. He has even blessed many through the years with prosperity and power. God does do miracles. However, there are people all around the world who are more faithful than we are and yet materially, they have very little. There are people who endure great physical trials, yet possess a faith that is deeper than we are able to understand. These people do not feel entitled to worldly blessings . . . they have discovered the blessing of intimacy with God which is better than anything the world can give us.
Somehow we seem to have come to believe that we deserve God’s blessing or that He owes us something. If God doesn’t deliver we seem to feel that He has let us down.
I’ve learned just how foolish this type of thinking is. The Bible gives us a different picture of our situation. We are told that we are people who have fallen far short of God’s standard of perfection. God has given us a gift we do not deserve. He has extended a forgiveness we did not earn. God does not owe us . . . we owe Him!
This idea of demanding God’s blessing is contrary to the teaching of Jesus:
Paul said, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! [Philippians 2:5-8]
Jesus did not call us to demand our rights; in fact He seemed to teach that we should be willing to surrender our rights for the sake of the gospel. Jesus didn’t teach us to gather stuff, He told us to give it away to help others. He did not teach us to demand from others, He taught us to give of ourselves to others. He taught us that joy does not come from material things. True joy comes from resting in Him.
In our spiritual lives, a sense of entitlement leads us to be lazy in our faith. We want a relationship with God that doesn’t require any work. We get our devotions e-mailed to us (so we don’t even have to open the Bible). Our prayers are one-sentence requests as we rush here and there. We want intimacy with God without having to put out any effort.
We must face the facts. Life as we know it is not fair. Some people seem to have it easier than others . . . and I don’t know why. God does not treat everyone the same. He raises some up and not others. Why? I don’t know. But guess what! You are not entitled to what everyone else has! God does not owe you anything! On the contrary, we owe Him everything.
I once heard a story about a woman I know. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she reportedly had this to say: “I began asking God , ‘Why me?’, and then, as I dealt with the cancer I began to ask instead, ‘Why NOT me?’ “
A big challenge to overcome when you’re in the middle of suffering is to stop living our lives feeling that somehow we have been cheated or deprived. While I watched every other person my age get married and start families, while I remained single, I felt cheated. When I suffered deep betrayal, I most definitely felt cheated. And every once in awhile, when my guard is down, I sometimes, even now, feel cheated. Here are some tips for avoiding the entitlement virus:
1. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Start each day thanking God for all that He has given you: a new day of life; His mercy and grace; your family; your health; His promises in the Word of God; a purpose in living. Be specific. Look for opportunities to thank people for their work and the blessing they have given you.
2. Make a conscious effort to look for ways that you can give to others rather than focusing on what you think you deserve from others.
3. Work at growing your relationship with God. Practice spiritual discipline. Make time to read the Word. Work at prayer. Be good stewards of what you have. Read a challenging Christian book . . . stop demanding to be spoon fed.
4. Hold yourself accountable. When you hear yourself say or think about what you “deserve”, stop and ask yourself why you think you “deserve” these things.
5. Diligently seek contentment. Learn to gladly receive what God has given to you. Enjoy life as it is rather than desiring the day when things will be better.
We can choose to focus on what we have been given by a gracious God. We can diligently pursue humility, holiness and service. We can learn to be content and we can learn to be thankful. We can learn to be givers rather than takers. And if we do this, our relationship with God . . . and with others, will be enriched.