I had been watching the news in South Africa with a heavy heart and it has brought this word into my focus: Entitlement. In itself it is not a bad word and as children of the Most High God we are entitled to some pretty amazing stuff; but the sense of entitlement I see around me – especially, but not limited to, the younger generation – really troubles me.
So when does our sense of entitlement start overreaching the mark? Many Christians live beneath what they are entitled to. What I mean by that is we haven’t fully realised the privileges we have as God’s children and co-heirs of the new covenant. Many of us are not living out fully what Jesus made available to us in some areas – and yet in others we are offended and angry with Him for not meeting our expectation. We have a skew sense of entitlement.
I have spent the whole week pondering on this and trying to work out where the fine line is between drawing fully on what the new covenant has made available to us and overstepping the mark by expecting everything without playing our part.
It seems to me that the answer lies in working out “what is my right” and “what is my privilege”. In the Merriam Webster dictionary the word entitlement is defined as “the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something”. But it is also “the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges)”. I think herein lies the problem.
The first definition is based on a two-way agreement that a “right” exists and should be honoured. The second is a one-sided assumption based on feelings, not facts.
In the last few years entitlement has become like an infectious sickness, spreading into many areas of life. Why does it irk us so much to see it? For me I think it’s because a sense of entitlement demands something without having to pay the price, which means someone else has to pick up the tab.
Which brings us back to the gospel. The good news of the gospel is all about getting what we don’t deserve – isn’t that entitlement? But then aren’t we called to lay down our lives? Doesn’t it cost us our old broken lives to pick up a life that is abundant and full of power?
So how do we know if we are living under a sense of entitlement? Perhaps it’s a question of whether we are living under offence or with gratitude, or instead of disappointment and anger, living with a sense of thankfulness and contentment.
Perhaps to safeguard ourselves against having a sense of entitlement, we need to learn how to trust our heavenly Father – and know that when things are not going our way, He sees the future and we need to trust that He is who he says he is. We need to be grateful and embrace the growth that will come from doing the hard bits.
It means that we surrender our will and our way not because God wants to control us, but just like the ark which had no rudder, we trust that in the storms God knows better than we do where we need to land when the storm is over. We need to trust that He will deliver us through this storm of our lives, or the wilderness that seems to go on and on, or the waiting that never seems to end.
We need to remember we deserve nothing and yet we get everything, but it does come with a cost. Noah had work to do on the ark, but steering the boat wasn’t part of that. Could it be that our sense of entitlement keeps us from the real work we are called to, by allowing us to be dissatisfied, offended and angry because we can’t steer where we think we need to go? Perhaps the cure for a sense of entitlement is gratitude and surrender.
What do you think?