Are you entitled and don’t know it is the topic that will be discussed today on RIOT Podcast, a Christian Discipleship Podcast.
Imagine if many of your friends were recently invited on an all-expenses-paid international trip. It is great for them — but you were left out.
Of course, your first reaction might be not to rejoice for their good fortune, or delight that they got to enjoy an incredible experience. Initially, your heart might be jealous, hurt, and stinging under a sense of entitlement. You wonder why they were chosen and not you, it’s not like you don’t all know the same people. In fact, you reason in your mind that you do more than they do for God's kingdom, and if anyone deserved to go it was you.
Before you know it, you realize that you might have an attitude of entitlement. Many times, throughout our lifetime, we have moments when we think we deserve more than we actually do, and when we don’t get it, our entitlement siren starts blaring. Watch out because when it does, we often act irrationally — in a way that looks foolish and maybe even childish from the outside.
Read James 4:1-12
On the show today, we want to talk about how to recognize our own sense of entitlement, and what steps we can take to surrender it to God. First, we need to understand what entitlement truly is.
Entitlement is the belief that we inherently deserve privileges or special treatment, or that we have the right to something. Entitlement shows no partiality; it will reach for life’s greatest gifts and claim its smallest pleasures. When it comes to the big parts of life, we can find ourselves thinking along these lines:
“I deserve to have children, so why am I struggling with infertility? After all, aren’t children a blessing from God?”
“I’m tired of being single. I’ve remained pure and sought Christ, so why hasn’t he brought a spouse into my life?”
“I’m such a hard worker. I don’t understand why I still can’t manage to find a high-paying job.”
But entitlement can also touch smaller issues:
“I’m a good homemaker and work hard to keep the house clean and tidy. I deserve to have a nicer, bigger home.”
“I work so hard to provide for my family. I deserve to watch TV when I come home.”
“I’ve been good with my finances. I deserve to buy what I want for a change.”
Paul wrote, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11).
“The ‘entitlement mentality is dangerous because it is a threat to contentment.” -Andy Sochor
“As long as our hearts have the entitlement mentality, personal growth in our relationship with God and with others will cease.” -Ray Kim
What Are We Entitled To?
There is no question that a sense of entitlement dominates many cultures around the world. If you think about it, it has been that way from the beginning, right back to the Garden of Eden. The issue of Entitlement has been cited by many as one of the major problems in the world, especially in America. “The growing entitlement mentality in America is completely toxic, slowly eating away at our spirits like acid” (David Ramsey).
To help us understand entitlement better, we must think of it as a foundation of our sinful nature. And, as you do, look at it in the context of personal relationships, particularly in marriage. If you are single, think about it from the perspective of expectations in a relationship, now and in the future.
Russell B. Lemle, Ph.D., is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Dept of Psychiatry, University of California San Francisco. He gives five reasons why we fall into entitlement:
You are owed because of your sacrifice or generosity in the relationship. “I gave up my career to raise our children. You can at least let me redecorate the living room.”
You are owed because you are feeling so emotional—so stressed, etc.—that your spouse must support what you want. “Since I work longer hours, you should pick up the kids from soccer practice.” “Listen, I’ve been home all-day cooking and cleaning, you go, I went last time.”
Entitlement seems so legitimate when we feel strongly about something. “Having my own quiet time in the evening is vital to me; I don’t understand why you can’t go along with this.”
Gender, as entitlement, has often been used as a way to get what we want, but it is not very effective. “Look, as head of the household, you should listen to me about ___________ (fill in the blank).” “I am the mother of these children; I know what is best for them.”
If you are the primary breadwinner, money can be used. “I’ve earned the right to have time to play golf.” “It’s my money, and I will spend it, however, I want to.”
Let’s face it, we likely have unknowingly inherited a lot of ideas about entitlement from our parents (and our kids are learning from us). From their influence, without thinking, we may insist that our way is the “right” way to do things, especially if we believe it is the most efficient.
Many times, a spouse falls into entitlement when what they want is seen as a real “need.” So much of the popular literature on relationships is about fulfilling each other’s needs. When we see the need as an entitlement, we are more guided by self-interest, rather than other-centeredness and love. Believing that we have a real need creates a strong sense of entitlement.
What do we deserve? We deserve nothing! But a true believer has been given everything! That’s amazingly good news! “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with Him graciously give us all things (emphasis mine)?” (Romans 8:32). That’s grace, and it is “unmerited favor.” It is something we didn't earn; it is the gift of God. God's grace, His unmerited favor, is simply God giving you something you don't deserve.
At the same time resist the common practice of comparing your situation to others. To help in that process, think about our Lord and Savior and how He took all that He had as a right and set it aside. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to grasp, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil, 2:5-8).
As Christians, we should not only trust God when we don’t get what we want. We should also follow the example of our Savior and choose to give up what we think we deserve. The reward might not be immediate, but we’ll become more like Christ, and that is always worth it.
Humility and the willingness to give up our rights are not prized virtues in our world, but they are stunningly beautiful to Christ.