We all feel entitled to things. Sometimes it’s because “everyone else has one”. Other times it’s because we’ve worked hard for something. But mostly I think it’s because our world is filled with it! Entitlement culture is everywhere. From advertisements to TV shows, song lyrics to our school classrooms our culture is screaming at us, “You deserve insert whatever you want here!” Maybe you believe you’re entitled to a good job, a nice car, and a comfortable house? Perhaps it’s the latest technology, happy and obedient children or a loving spouse? Maybe it’s just to feel happy?
For me I just assumed I’d finish college, do some ministry, get married, have babies, live a happy and healthy life. And then I had a total right hip replacement at 25 years old. I went from a healthy 25 year old to looking down a long road of tests, x-rays, multiple surgeries, lots of pain and many limitations on everyday activities. Now, I know that there are many worse things in life. But as I lay in my hospital bed I couldn’t work out why I was so irritated with God. I lay there frustrated and upset but not sure why. But over the past 6 months of recovery I think God has been showing me the answer.
When I made it back to church we were in the middle of Romans. You may remember over the first 3 chapters Paul outlines what we are entitled to. He says God owes us nothing. In fact God owes us worse than nothing. It would be better if we got nothing. What we deserve is God’s wrath. God’s wrath is being revealed against humankind because of our godlessness and unrighteousness (Rom 1-2). He drives his point home in 3:10, ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’. What do we deserve? Because of our unrighteousness we deserve God’s wrath to be poured out on us for eternity.
If you’re anything like me then this was not new information! In fact I’ve taught Romans 3:23, 5:8 and 6:23 to kids at church more times than I can remember. So why do I think I deserve all of the things listed above? Because I believed the lie our culture is telling us that I am entitled to stuff.
Believing this lie is dangerous. It leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction with the lives that God has given us. And more importantly (and significantly more dangerously) it leads to a doubting of God’s goodness and a pride before him that could ultimately end in our condemnation. This is serious stuff!
So what do we do?
1. We need to expose the lie of entitlement in our culture.
The lie is subtle! That’s why it’s dangerous. That’s why, even after 20 years of following Jesus, I lay in a hospital bed frustrated with God but not knowing why! Entitlement culture is worming its way into our hearts without us even realising it! We need to wake up and fight entitlement culture!
2. We need to teach our hearts the truth of what we really deserve.
We deserve judgment! What we’re entitled to is punishment. It’s only through Jesus, who didn’t stand on his rights, that we can be saved from God’s wrath.
Here are a few small ways I think we can combat entitlement culture:
1. Meditate on who God is and who we are. The Bible teaches us an accurate picture of God, of us, and of what we are entitled to. Meditating on those parts of scripture that point us to God’s glory, our sinfulness and Jesus’ sacrifice in our place should be a priority. (E.g. Romans 1-5, Ephesians 2:1-10, Philippians 2:5-11, Genesis 1-3, Isaiah 53, many Psalms and any of the gospels).
2. Critically engage with our culture. When we watch TV, listen to music, chat with our friends, or plan for our future we need to do this with ears and eyes wide open to the lies that our culture is teaching us! We need to question everything our world throws at us.
3. Practice thankfulness. James 1:17 says, ‘Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above’. Nothing that we have we deserve. Everything is from God. So we need to practice thanking him every day.
All this needs to be coated in prayer that God will change our hearts to know and love him more.