Entitlement

The Danger of Entitlement and How Its Message Is Impacting Your Personal Life, Church Life and Walk with God

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.”

Here is the video for old time sake. Very vintage.

I recently received this ad below in my email inbox from Hilton Honors.

Entitlement

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.

entitlement-problem

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.

Ending Thoughts

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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Series NavigationThe Danger of Entitlement: 5 Ways To Loosen Its Grip On Our Lives >>

Comments

  1. deandeguara

    Entitlement is everywhere! I’ve never thought about it in the context of my relationship with God and probably never really self-examined to know if I’m blinded by it. It’s easy to spot in others! I might need to take the plank out of my own eye though. You pretty much nailed it…I think I’m going to go take a break now. I deserve it!

    • This post came out of a study on worship. Entitlement drives a wedge in our gratitude toward God. This usually the first place where we can determine if we are being impacted by its message.

  2. This is a very needed article and I think you stated it simply and yet pointed. We all have a propensity towards entitlement, and as a parent I find it one of the main battles I have in raising my kids to walk with the Lord rightly. I will definitely be sharing this article.

    This really hit me:

    “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.”

    You are so right – we want to preach the true gospel, not a gospel of materialism or humanism. And it gets so murky in our culture to see it for what it really is, and that we feed into the problem as leaders.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to your followup post.

    • Charis, thanks for passing the article on to others. I shared this entitlement thought, in part, for about 10 minutes at a cHOP gathering a few months ago. So many had never even thought about this before. For many it was a wake up call. I still have people (especially many young adult professionals) coming to me to discuss just how pervasive entitlement in the context of church life and their walk with the Lord.

  3. Great post Greg, thanks for sharing. :)
    We are created to serve and worship God, not for Him to serve and worship us and that is what entitlement does when it comes into our relationship with God.

    This self centeredness is everywhere and media just floods us with the signal of putting ourselves first, which is the opposite of what Father wants. Father wants us to love our neighbour and treat them as we wish to be treated.

    I will be sharing this post on my blog. If you don’t mind, I will take a small snippet and link it back here. I don’t have a lot of visitors, but maybe someone will benefit from these words.

    Blessings

    • Thank you Greg, I just shared this on my blog. :)

      I am in total agreement with you here. Over the past year, Father has led me into studying George Mueller. Just reading about his life brought me into the realization that our culture is filtering into the church and people believe they are owed something. This is not the case with God or with a relationship with Him. All of the disciples of Jesus suffered greatly for their faith and they did not have the comforts of the world but they lived day by day depending totally on the hand of God to provide for their needs. When I think about Elijah, a powerful man of God, he did not live in luxury but in poverty.

      A servant of the living God is just that, a humble servant willing to die for the sake of Jesus. Our reward is given in heaven AND what an amazing reward that will be!! Praise God!!

      Blessings.

      • @childofGod It doesn’t matter whether a believer is blessed with great riches or lives in poverty, it’s vital that they both remain grateful to God — living for His glory and serving Him faithfully — clear from the attitude that God owes them something. ;)

    • Hello Child of God. There is kinda a weird thing going on today. It just seems like God is a means to OUR end. I think this is a bit of what I would define as a “false grace” message. This message puts us on the throne of our own life and we justify it with strange sounding theology,

      By all means, share the post on your blog. I would love that.

      Thanks for sharing! Blessings!

  4. Jennifer Wandler

    This is a great article that articulates a very clear problem. I find that if I’m struggling in ANY area (marriage/faith/intimacy with God/laying my life down for my children), entitlement is THE number one problem. When I stop thinking I “deserve” something, and just thank God daily for the breath in my lungs, I serve with such a better attitude. So good. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hello Jennifer. You got it! Your comment is SO true. I don’t know if is simply our flesh or a mixture of both our flesh and the culture we are brought up in that causes us to think this way. I would have to believe that the entitlement message is deeply engrained in pretty much every area of life. I think the key to overcoming this is to do what you are doing, that is, living from a place of thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Adrian Ko

    Greg, a very good post! Thom S. Rainer’s article you linked to mentioned 7 exit interview quotes. Each made me wonder if they might be a byproduct of a culture that perceives the church as a service organization. Having been part of church leadership teams, I can relate to how much work goes into preparing people for a good ministry experience on a Sunday morning. I had also once worked retail and experienced the anticipation and preparation moments before we open the doors that morning to the public.

    But if people view church as a service organization, might it be that they feel their obligation is to check their physical bodies once a week into the organization’s building while that organization, in essence, “does” the religion for them? I’ve often wondered how the modern church culture and experience compared with that of the first century church. Perhaps a community and family gathering would encourage people to do the opposite of an entitlement mentality, which is basically to prefer one another and to serve….

    • Hello Adrian. I think you are definitely headed in the right direction with how you are thinking. The Bible teaches that the church is first and foremost a family. And family is about covenant. A family works together, loves and serves each other. Entitlement always looks inward, it all about what I can “get” rather how I could “give”. But beyond this, entitlement puts a huge expectation on others. It’s not that they should “get” something but that “you owe it to them.”

      The folks Tom Rainer alludes to will never truly be happy. They will just take their entitlement attitude to the next church they go to, stay a few years and move on. Over and over again. They never enjoy family. They never learn to work through problems together. They are seldom grateful. They usually complain the most and serve the least.

  6. Great article Pastor Greg! I will be honest and admit that I have fallen into this trap before, thinking I deserved or was owed something from God because of a job well done etc. Truly, when my heart overflows with thanksgiving, simply for who he IS, my eyes are focused on Him and I see everything in my life as a blessing. God desires to give good gifts to His children. I must rest in knowing His ways are higher than mine, His thoughts greater and that He knows what is best for me.

    • Yep. This is what I am learning as well. I knew that gratitude and thanksgiving are important but in light of this study, I am settled that gratitude and thanks giving are vital! Keep going.

  7. BrianDelTurco

    It seems the beautiful “irony” is when we release our pitiful sense of entitlement, over time we discover more and more of what He has in store. He wants to bring things into our lives we’re not even thinking of, and yet we are designed for … things that bring true joy and fulfillment. All along the way, He becomes our highest treasure …

    • Hello Brian, You’re right. What we want and think we are entitled to pales to what He wants to grant His children. Great truth. So we must be believing a lie regarding who God is and His desire and care for His children.

  8. Frank

    I think this is not only an accurate observation, but perhaps the heart of God in terms of the consequence of this “culture” if left unchecked…alienation from our Father. Good word… God have mercy on us. Help us to be filled with gratitude & love for you & others not self indulgence.

  9. Pete

    This is good PG. I’ve always believed that a successful marriage is one where each person strives to serve the other. In that process, both will start to out serve each other and become blessed in the process. It should work that way in the church also; lok for ways to serve instead of being served…

    • Pete, I think for some, they feel they can actually achieve both. They are serving but with a few strings attached. What’s interesting is that some will say, “BECAUSE I am serving you I am entitled to…”.

      I totally know what you are saying here. PURE servanthood will not ask for anything in return. It gives with no strings attached. This is the foundation to any healthy relationship whether it’s family or church.

  10. Jeremy H.

    Wow!! This was really great, thanks Papa Greg. I’ve definitely been dealing with this and felt this helped me see the proper perspective. :)

    • Hi Jeremy. I read your comment over on FB, as well. Glad this post shed some light on your heart. I’m dealing with this entitlement thing too. Great hearing from you and I pray all is well. ;)

  11. dkoon

    Great article and very thought provoking!!!

    You are right in saying that God owes us nothing! In fact, we owe Him our lives because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

    We all need to remind ourselves that God is not a Santa Claus nor a vending machine. If we demand God to give us this or that, then we are just using God for our own purpose. In fact, not only are we NOT to use God, but we need to yield to Him and let Him USE US for His purpose.

    We should be grateful if we have food and clothing (and may be a rental shelter as well). He does not owe us a house, He does not owe us a job, He does not owe us a car, He does not owe us a spouse, He does not owe us money, He does not owe us anything!!!!!!!

    For those of us who are privileged to have more than basic needs, especially for those who have jobs that pay well and fortunately enough to have other kings of blessings. We need to be reminded by the story of Esther. God gave us extras may be for the purpose that He is calling us to accomplish. To give unto the Kingdom of God, plus to REACH those people who are in social circles with special privileges that pastors and missionaries could not reach.

    We need to have the right attitude that we receive blessings from God so that we can give, and NOT receive blessings from God so we can enrich ourselves.

    • Hello Derrick. Great comment here. I picked up two thoughts that help me. First, agreeing with the Word that WE owe God everything. Secondly, what we should be strongly desiring is for God to use us. It seems like a lot of this is flip-flopped. Need to fresh new look at foundational truths. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here!

  12. garrett

    That vintage McDonald’s commercial is hilarious!

    I’m glad that commercials today are more “refined” and can appeal to my sophisticated tastes and my true hearts desires. Some might call it “entitlement”…I just call it life

    • Hi Garrett. I have no problem with this commercial or luxury things. I like nice things. In my book, this is not entitlement. I would love an Acura RLX but it doesn’t mean the Lord owes me one. ;) Thanks for sharing!

    • dkoon

      For those of us who are privileged to have more than basic needs, especially for those who have jobs that pay well and fortunately enough to have other kinds of blessings. We need to be reminded by the story of Esther. God gave us extras may be for the purpose that He is calling us to accomplish. To give unto the Kingdom of God, plus to REACH those people who are in social circles with special privileges that pastors and missionaries could not reach.

      If we have luxuries in life, it may mean that God is sending us to witness to people with the same social circle. We may need to join certain clubs and participate in certain “up-scale” activities in order to reach them. Jesus “down-scale” Himself to reach us. In 21st century affluent places like Silicon Valley, God may be “up-scaling” some of us to reach them. The issue is not “down-scale” or “up-scale”, rather, we need to talk the language and be able to mingle with those seamlessly whom we are witnessing to.

      • This is a good point, Derrick. Not to many believers think like this. I believe your comment is worthy of attention and consideration in view of each persons Kingdom purpose, calling and/or assignment.

  13. I see entitlement everywhere. It is sickening and makes me literally, nauseous. Whats worse is when the Lord nudges me and shows me the underlying entitlement in my own-self that I deny to be there. When I get frustrated that someone is not doing what they “should” be doing, or things aren’t working out the way they “should” be, or my kid isn’t “honoring” me as they “should”… ouch.
    my prayer then… FIRE God. Please in your mercy send your fire and burn out of me every thing that sets itself against Your glory. set us on fire God, sober a people to love you with ALL of our hearts, soul, mind, and strength. In Jesus name.

    • I see your point here. We definitely want our children to honor us because it’s scriptural. This brings up an interesting point, do we deserve to be treated a certain way by, let’s say, our children. I don’t know if this would be called entitlement or respecting and valuing parents. Again, a “thin line” worthy of consideration. Thanks, Gina.

  14. A lot of us get an entitled attitude because there are a lot of pastors teaching us, “God promises this ‘n that to you. Hold on to those promises! Demand those promises!”

    Well, some of those “promises” aren’t. They’re out-of-context scriptures, manipulated to make us feel good, but God never promised us any such thing. “I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper and not harm you” (Jr 29.11) immediately comes to mind: God promised this to Jeremiah’s listeners, not us. Yet a lot of folks have been “promised” this prosperity. So they demand it, even though they’re not otherwise obeying or following God at all, and expect the ministers of his church to deliver… which is only fair, if those ministers have been spreading that false teaching. Not so fair when we haven’t.

    • Thanks for responding.

      I would never want to say God doesn’t still make promises to people—and sometimes those promises look an awful lot like the scriptures. If God told me personally, “I have plans to prosper you and not harm you,” it sounds a lot like what he said thru Jeremiah—but it’s not the same message, and I would be wrong to claim it is.

      You’re quite right: Humility and thanksgiving must be an important part of our walk with God—and the natural response, and only attitude we should have, when we receive God’s promises. Never arrogance, never pride; that’s not the fruit of the Spirit.

      • @KW K.W. I think I know what you saying in the first paragraph. I do believe that God can use Jeremiah 29:11 and make it just as real to me as it was to Jeremiah. Of course, the context would be be completely different but the promise can be just as potent. ;) Blessings.

    • Hello K. W. It’s important to distinguish between God’s promises and God’s promises specifically made to you. I believe some of God’s promises are universal. In other words, His promises are for all believers. Yet I believe God’s promises are also personal. Those promises He has given to me specifically.

      I would never want to twist or manipulate God or God’s people with a promise He as made, yet for the promises He has personally made to me, I will contend to see it fulfilled. The danger comes from a mindset that embraces an “you-owe-me” attitude that excludes humility and thanksgiving.

      Yes, I would have to agree in principle with your comment. It seems like it can be be a vicious cycle. We need to recognize entitlement for what it is, guard our own hearts, walk in humility, stay in a place of thanksgiving, love and lead well.

  15. I realise I’m late to the party here but I just wanted to say first of all, thank you for writing this because I know it can’t have been an easy thing to write and put out there. This issue is something that bothers me both in the culture of the church and also in myself. And I think in many ways the evidence of it’s influence and pervasiveness is the extent to which God’s presence and power is being poured out in many places around the world (South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Korea, Northern China) where there is a decided lack of the kind of entitlement you’re talking about. It’s something that somehow grieves, challenges and inspires me all that the same time (if that makes sense). Maybe the best way to describe it is it makes me sort of jealous, to experience God and have our churches experience God in a fuller way than at present.

    I big part of this for me on a personal level (I think I mentioned this in another comment) has been learning about the power of gratitude and thankfulness – which I believe is what opposes entitlement and helps to diminish it. I find the more I pursue and seek, with His help, an attitude of thankfulness, the more joy I feel and the more worshipful I become toward Him and, I think/hope, the more humble I become too (although humility’s always the trickiest one to guage). It’s something I hope to continue growing in (I have good days and not so good days with it) and thereby better serve my church through. But I definitely agree it’s a huge, huge issue for many of us. One that needs to be acknowledged so we can seek to be more like how He would intend for us to be. Great post!

    • Hi Micah. I would agree with you. The greatest battle for me lies within. I am discovering that approaching God with thanksgiving confronts any entitlement in the heart.

      I make sure, in my journal (DayOne), that I “daily” include this question, “what am I thankful for right now?” I admit, on some days I have left the answer blank but I know this question is militant (in a good way) in that it challenges the condition of my heart daily. This is what I need. Hope this makes sense.

      Thanks for stopping by… I like the way you think. :)

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