Pastor’s Pen

Reed Stockman Pix

Perhaps the book for this decade will be, “I’m Entitled and So Are You! (Though Perhaps Not Quite So Much as Me).” Such a book, popular as it might prove, would lack therapeutic value. A more helpful book might bear the title, “I’m Not Entitled and Neither Are You — So Get Over It!”

Entitlement issues are increasingly a concern of psychologists and therapists. Pastors and some educators report similar concerns. We seem to have come to the place where we feel entitled to the good life. We’re entitled to have everything work for us. If it doesn’t, someone must be to blame, and you can be sure of at least this: Whoever is at fault, it isn’t us. What a crazy idea!

We see a sense of entitlement all around us. Now a days there is often a huge pile of presents under the Christmas tree for the kids. Are the kids overwhelmed, thankful, filled with awe that there is so many things for them. Not most kids because that’s just the way it’s supposed to be. Every kid feels a right to presents by the heaps, and even that will disappoint them if the latest, coolest thing isn’t to be found. Or imagine a person standing on a beautiful beach in Hawaii with a frown on his face, muttering, “I really liked our spring vacation better” — that’s an entitlement issue, too.

I read that these days mental health types see young people on a regular basis who are absolutely certain their lives should be better than they are and someone else is to blame. But this problem is not limited to the young. Talk radio shows specialize in identifying the culprits and they seldom are us. We also seem to have a harder time accepting responsibility for our part in the problems that beset us. After all, how can we possibly say, “It’s my fault,” when we’ve been weaned and schooled on self-esteem? If I’m OK and you’re OK, then it must be “Them.”

A sense of entitlement means that we feel that we have a right or a claim to something, whether it’s the best school, a grand home, preferential treatment, or the good life. How has this sense of entitlement come to pass? Is it self-esteem run amok? Is it the emphasis on “my rights” in speech and thought? Whatever the cause, this much seems true: Entitlement is the handmaiden of the ego, the sign of a our sinful human nature that feels we deserve blessings from God instead of realizing that we deserve nothing and any gifts, blessing, or abundance is due to the grace and mercy of God.

Self-examination and repentance are good places to start when trying to combat this sense of entitlement. As we examine our lives and see our sins we realize more and more that we are not worthy of the least of God’s blessings or mercy. This in turn drives us to repentance followed by the sweet words of Grace found in the Gospel, the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for us. And not only did He die for us, we did not in any way deserve to have such a sacrificial act performed on our behalf. Knowing and understanding this in turn, promotes thankfulness in our hearts and makes us appreciates the riches of God’s grace and blessings to us.

On the other hand those people who feel a sense of entitlement, however rich, are truly poor. Instead of knowing life as a gift, instead of being thankful for what they have, they always feel they deserve more. They feel God, or the government, or other people “owe” them just because they exist. That is real poverty, never feeling you have enough because you deserve more, and no sense of entitlement can alleviate it.