What does it mean to be entitled? It means to have an intrinsic right or claim to, usually because of position or birth. The president is entitled to certain rights and privileges that are inherent to the office of president, such as round-the-clock secret service protection. In our society, entitlement has come to mean “deserving” something that you haven’t earned either because of your race, your gender, or other socioeconomic class, your desire to have it, or for no particular reason at all except someone else has it and therefore you “should” too. At least, that’s how it appears to me. At its core, entitlement is self-centeredness.
Recently, I have become disappointed by how vastly the entitlement mentality has infected Christians. It’s everywhere and so often, we don’t even recognize it. It is glaring in my children’s generation. I have thought about this a lot. This is the generation whose parents worried about damaging their self-esteem. So little girls were treated like princesses and they grew up to think they actually were and everyone should treat them as such. Competition was frowned upon (“it would hurt their self-esteem to lose”) so everyone got a trophy they didn’t earn. Those same children, all grown up, think they should always win, and because they haven’t had the experience of losing and losing and finally winning because of hard work, skill, effort, and perseverance, they give up easily. There is no reward quite like winning after so much struggle, but in order to avoid a little pain and tears along the way, we robbed them of this joy. We made their whole childhood about them, and now, remarkably, we are surprised that they still believe it. All of our foibles in parenting were done with such good intentions, but we allowed societal and church fads and trends to lead us.
Ultimately, regardless of who our parents were or how well we parented, every person makes their own choices about who they are and what they allow to define them. We have all seen people from terrible home situations overcome their past to be thoughtful, productive, gracious, loving people. We have likewise seen people raised in loving homes with every benefit waste their lives in laziness, addiction, or empty and self-centered pursuits. And we know that, by God’s grace, when we give our life to Him, we become a new creature; new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
As I have been thinking about this plague of entitlement alongside my theme of obedience, they keep intersecting. God calls us to a life that is completely opposite of entitlement. If anyone has a legitimate claim to entitlement, it would be Jesus, the King of kings. And yet…
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
He gave up his divine privileges. Can you imagine? No person on earth, no matter how rich or powerful, can even come close to having what Christ gave up. This is amazing. And He gave it up for us – to serve and save us – not because we are “entitled” but simply because of His great love for us, love that we don’t deserve.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24