We are bombarded by business, advertising and government with the “entitlement” message. This message is engrained in our culture and absorbed into virtually every fabric of society. Though you might not know what entitlement is, it is safe to say that its message is eating away at your personal life, church life and your relationship with the Lord.
I’m not interested in discussing broad business and governmental entitlements. I am focusing on what I see as a growing entitlement attitude that is pervasive throughout much of the church. This is my humble opinion for whatever it’s worth. And I want to let you all know that I write as one who is hugely impacted by the entitlement message but trying to loosen its grip on my life.
The Business of Entitlement
When advertisers say we are “entitled” to something it means that we have a “right to” or “deserve” it. For instance, “you owe it to yourself” to take that cruise or you “deserve”, that new gadget or car.
You’ve earned it. You deserve it. You owe it to yourself to have it. These statements are at the heart of the entitlement message.
Entitlement is on our billboards, fed to us through visual media such as television, movies and all forms of the internet. It comes across our radio stations and packaged on the products we purchase. Honestly, there is no getting around it. We are confronted daily with its message.
Do you remember this old jingle from McDonalds?
“You deserve a break today, so get up and get away to McDonalds”
Do you see the entitlement message here:
“You deserve a break today” – Don’t we all deserve some kind of a break? The answer would be YES! This is what McDonalds is saying you are entitled to.
In essence, McDonalds is connecting entitlement to its product. If you agree with their entitlement message then you will hopefully agree with the other half of the statement…”get up, get away, to McDonalds.”
Like I said, you cannot escape the message, its everywhere.
The Impact of Entitlement on the Church
Unfortunately this entitlement mindset is firmly planted in the minds of so many in our churches and worse yet, seeded into our relationship with God.
Time does not permit me to write how so many Pastors and ministry leaders feel the pressure to keep up with the entitlement demands of many in the church. Many Pastors and leaders are suffering burnout and leaving the ministry in record numbers. The entitlement demands are simply too great.
The Danger of Entitlement
Entitlement creates an inward, self focused, self-centered person. The sheer nature of the message is the importance, rights and benefits YOU deserve. We become the focus and the means to the end. God is reduced to someone who helps me get what I believe I am entitled to. This is an alarming reality.
This weird “spiritual” entitlement leads us to believe God owes us something, that He is in someway entitled to give us what we want. We have a right to material abundance, comfort, zero-problems, the nice house and all the other things our entitlement culture tells us we deserve.
Within the church culture, entitlement can be expressed with these sayings, “I deserve to be a part of this ministry”, “I have a right to this platform”, “I am entitled to this position”. Some believe they are entitled based on tenure, money and/or ministry experience. Regardless, living the christian life with feelings of what is owed to us, what we deserve and what we have a right to puts us in harms way.
Why Many Walk Away From The Lord
Many people leave the faith because “God didn’t work”. For many, the reason God didn’t work is because God was never made Lord of their lives. He was a means to get what they feel they were entitled to. When this didn’t happen it was a simple decision to move on to the next thing.
In many ways we as leaders have contributed to this by telling people that God will meet all their needs and give them all that they want or desire if they give their lives to Jesus. Again, this is not a clear gospel.
Though I believe God gives us gifts and wants to meet our needs, the heart of the salvation message is the fact that we stand guilty before a holy God. Our sin has separated us from our heavenly Father.
Provision has been made on the cross by Jesus to save us from our sin and remove our guilt. He will rescue us, redeem us and save us if we simply invite Him to be Lord of our lives.
We deserve to be eternally separated from God but now we enjoy knowing God our Creator, Father and friend based on the finished work of Jesus. There is much to be grateful for.
God Owes Us Nothing
So with regard to God and entitlement, let me be frank.
God owes us nothing. God is not entitled, obligated or in anyway relegated to give us anything. He is God. He gives because He wants to not because He has to.
He is the center of all things and we are not. All things exist for His good pleasure.
The Good News is that even though God owes us nothing, out of His great love He will give us what we need and even things we desire. Yet He is never entitled to give us a thing. It’s from unconditional love by grace that He gives.
The problem with entitlement is that it creates an attitude that puts a selfish demand on God’s generosity and creates conditions in the relationship that are unhealthy and I would dare say, deadly.
The Dark Side of Entitlement
If we believe that God owes us something then the measure of our thankfulness is now based on God’s performance and the entitlements we expect from Him. When we sense we have a right to something we distance ourself from grace and ultimately God.
To the extent that we fall into an entitlement trap we become more deserving in our own eyes and God’s grace gets less and less amazing in our estimation.
Before we know it, gratitude and thanksgiving are slowly replaced with bitterness, pride and envy.
Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
The verse above should get our attention in light of our discussion. When we become ungrateful and cease to give honor to the Lord our thinking becomes futile and are hearts grow dark.
Now the opposite is true. The more we honor and give thanks to God the mind becomes fruitful and our hearts become filled with light.
So How Can We Become Free of Entitlement?
I have a few thoughts around the above question. Since this post is already lengthy I will need to go after answering this question in another post.
1. Is this helpful? Love to get your thoughts on this. What are you seeing regarding entitlement and it’s message? Do you see this reality in others, the church or even in your own life? Please let me know in the comments below.
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