Entitlement: The American Struggle

It seems to me that society encourages entitlement.

Seek what pleases yourself rather than living for anyone or anything else

Don’t we all feel like we have a right to pursue pleasure over worrying about anything else? I confess, I often feel entitled to pleasure.

My childhood was full of entitlement, illustrated best at Christmas. I remember being upset with Santa because I didn’t get what I wanted and told my mom more than a few times that Santa had failed that year.

In high school, I saw entitlement in my friends. I often watched them yell at their parents for perceived slights and eventually get what they wanted.

As I have gotten older it’s turned into a more subtle form of entitlement. Taking the form of, ‘I’ve earned my paycheck, so I should treat myself. I’ll still give 10% of my income to the church, but I deserve a few lattes and a date night with my wife..’

There is a story in the Bible about a rich couple that lied about being generous. They wanted to have the same recognition others were getting by being falsely generous. They tried to deceive the church leaders and the Holy Spirit over the amount they sold their property for, then fell down dead (Acts 5:3-11). While that may seem harsh, it illustrates the severity of their entitlement.

I realize that I am not lying to nor deceiving the Spirit by thinking I’m entitled to certain pleasures, but I may be lying to myself. My self-deception comes through saying that I am fully committed to God yet neglecting others through indulging my own desires. Though my deception is not as serious as lying to the Holy Spirit, it is nonetheless blocking me from a real commitment to God.

And I suspect I am not the only one.

Entitlement can masquerade as many things, but it usually looks like self-justification. The harsh reality is that no matter how much we justify our spending and living habits, it does not change the fact that we need to be sold out for Jesus. The couple in Acts 5 died because they wanted people to think they were sold out for Jesus. They wanted the recognition without the sacrifice. Personally, I’m also tempted to want the results without the discipline.

Such is the American lifestyle.

Thankfully the God of the Bible sent Jesus Christ to cover our selfishness. All we need now is to be obedient to what the Holy Spirit leads us to do.

Should I desire to buy an overpriced coffee drink (thus ignoring our perfectly fine coffee machine at home), and feel led to buy lunch for a homeless man instead, I need to be obedient and follow that lead.

If I feel led to give away half of my clothing to people who need it more than I do, I need to be obedient to God’s leading.

Thank God that we are not stuck in entitlement. We can be educated through the Bible by the Holy Spirit to transform our world away from entitlement towards sacrifice. That sacrificial transformation will likely look different for us all.

Unfortunately for us being American automatically makes it easier to act entitled. In what ways can we fight against the entitlement that is encouraged by our culture?

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