We are back here again to discuss the problem of entitlement in the Church. Yes, our society has major issues with entitlement today. Instead of pointing the finger at our culture, we need to admit that this issue of entitlement has bled into the very Life of most of our congregations in America, and subsequently, all over the world as well.
The last post had to do with our entitlement (in general) toward others. This post is focusing more on the entitlement toward God himself.
Reformations and Awakenings
Desiring a reformation or awakening is a very good desire! A spirit of entitlement can quickly be seen when it comes to God manifesting his blessing and working in an area church or nearby congregation. Churches get very envious and jealous and seek to promote themselves instead of the One True Kingdom.
"Keeping Up with the Joneses"
When God's blessings start to manifest in a region people start to get focused on the wrong things. The first temptation is for the area churches who are watching God work in a specific local church to get jealous and contentious. They start to fight amongst themselves and start pushing for manufacturing results instead of being faithful, quiet, content and waiting for God to move properly through the Word and His Spirit. The second temptation comes in the form of discouragement. This is to become lukewarm and lazy, entitled, and they think that they are just "owed" a "move of God." They grow weary waiting and get extremely flustered that there's a delay of what they want to see happen Right Now!!
These people often want a reformation or awakening, but an entitled person wants what they want, when they want it and on their terms. If reformation is what they are seeking, then the enemy to reformation is a presumptuous people who expect reformation to come on their timetable and on their terms. What are these terms? These terms are void of the labor that a true reformation or awakening demands (Humility, prayer, repentance, conviction, applying and loving Scripture, enduring sound doctrine.) There is something to be said today for a faithful minister to plow hard ground for 40 years to retire and then be forgotten. Sometimes the fruit of that labor is seen for the next pastor who gets to reap the harvest.
Why is this so hard? Why is it hard for people to not be so entitled today? I believe this is the result of a casual, "American" (Western) theology that emphasizes false (easy-pray a prayer after me) salvation and an comfortable life for those who prayed said prayer. If we jump through the hoops of tithing, praying, reading our Bibles and asking Jesus into our hearts (which really isn't biblical, and is addressed in other articles), then we get a mansion in heaven (*it's actually a room), streets of gold, and a ticket out of hell (not much thought of Jesus in these camps either). What are we stressing in our ministries? Is it really about knowing Jesus and making Him known for the glory of the Father through the Spirit?
It's no wonder there are over 19,000 cities in our nation and none of them are experiencing "revival" or anything like the 2 Great Awakenings. Not one. Many would get scared if there was a threat of true reformation because our comfort would go out the window and our lives would be turned upside down.
Many "have the appearance (form) of godliness but deny the power thereof." Entitlement in spiritual contexts can pass itself off as "faith." But there is a big difference between being presumptuous, assuming something and true Faith.
The Bible says that faith without works is dead. Maybe another way to say that could be, faith without works is assuming what God never promised, or expecting God to do something He never promised to do. Another way to understand this verse is that faith without works reveals a spirit of entitlement.
"What does it profit, my brothers, if a man says he has faith but has no works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and lacking daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' and yet you give them nothing that the body needs, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But a man may say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God; you do well. The demons also believe and tremble. But do you want to be shown, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:14-20). To be entitled is to be worse off than devils.
True faith always results in and requires action. An entitled person is always inactive but expects the world on a string. We think we don't have to do anything and we expect God to move even though Faith is always seen as active! True faith results in hope and joy. Entitlement results in griping, complaining, coping (instead of hoping), and has a generally miserable existence.
True faith requires that we bless people who hurt us. Entitlement results in resisting and rejecting those who don't meet our expectations. God calls the church to be full of people who have crucified self, are full of Christ's abundant Life, are motivated by true and active faith, full of the Spirit and are on mission in God's Kingdom alone.
The Buck Has to Stop Somewhere
I am praying that God eradicates the spirit of entitlement from my own heart and my own congregation. I have the privilege of modeling this by God's grace in my own family and church first. I am praying that our people will also learn to put self entitlement to death.
We have to put our own opinions and preferences to death. When we don't get our way, we must understand that it is ok. God is good all the time! We also have to learn the art of waiting on God while we are obedient to His Word and Will.
Everywhere we look today people are demanding their rights. Look at how litigious this society has become! This spirit of entitlement drives major, evil movements today such as sex trafficking, pornography, child abuse, chauvinism, sexism, feminism, racism and abortion. It also fuels crusades and campaigns that are not really about Christ and the Kingdom. Even good intentions are often tainted with an entitled spirit.
What would happen in our congregations if we would be the change in this matter? What if we start to let go of our rights, agendas, opinions and preferences and seek only the will of our Heavenly Father through His Word for the sake of His glory and not our own? What would our Life actually display and what would our faith families start to look like if we eradicated this spiritually entitled attitude?
I have noted through the years that our culture is on a trajectory of major entitlement and it is gaining speed and seems like the momentum will only increase over the coming years. Each generation easily notes it in the next while turning a blind eye to their own part in helping cultivate this culture of entitlement. Blame shifting is the oldest trick in the book and yes, each generation is seemingly getting worse and worse, but each generation has a share in the blame. Much could be said on that matter, but the focus of today's article is not to cast blame, but to look into each of our own hearts and examine them according to Scripture.
Entitlement is a problem in our culture, yes! But it is sadly a very big problem in the Church culture as well. It is a problem on a macro-scale, as well as micro. It is inward and outward and encompasses all people in the church from pastors, to board members, to the average Joe in the congregation.
Entitlement defined: the condition of having a right to have, do or get something the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges).
In 2 Timothy 3:2 It promises that in the last days, "men will be lovers of self." The attitude of self love (self worship) was not helped one bit with the rise of Norman Vincent Peale and Rob Schuller and the countless myriads of other preachers who promoted the doctrine of self esteem into the church culture. It is doing great harm to our testimony as Christians in addition to creating a proud, lazy people who expect to be served instead of to serve.
My brother in law shared with me that in his church, one lady said that her "spiritual gift was being served." No, she was not making a joke, she was dead serious. Some may not outright say that as boldly as this lady, but many certainly act this way.
Entitlement always brings strife, because the 10 commandments get reduced to "don't offend me." Or, we get offended if someone doesn't center their whole world around us.
"Let nothing be done out of strife or conceit, but in humility let each esteem the other better than himself." (This verse presupposes that lack of humility will result in strife. This is because of being conceited and thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought.) The verse continues "Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Let this mind be in you all, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. But He emptied Himself, taking upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in the form of a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:3-8).
Cross centered lives demands other's centered living. This also demands dying to self.
Attitudes of entitlement are clearly seen in those who belong to the enemy. Satan is defined by selfish ambition. He presumptuously thought that it was his right to set his throne above Jesus.
"How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart, 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also on the mount of the congregation, in the recesses of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High" (Is. 14:12-14).
While Satan wanted to go higher, Jesus went lower. He descended to earth, took upon himself humanity, our sin, and went to hell in our place, crushing the head of the serpent. This world demands that we lift ourselves higher, while Jesus reminds us to esteem God and others before self.
Paul certainly understood this when he wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
Entitlement reveals evil intentions
"'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being" (1 Cor. 10:23-24).
We can presume we are entitled to something because it is legal or seems right. If other people stand in the way of what is seemingly rightfully ours, we think we have the right to do whatever is necessary to obtain it—even at the cost of others. If someone brings a knife to a fight, we bring a gun. If they bring a gun, we will bring 10... It might be lawful for us, but is it necessary or beneficial? Does our pursuit of our rights really build others up (get them to see Jesus)?
I am not saying we are to just let people walk all over us. That is not right. We are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. The 1960's were a terrible time in this country. It was very divided much like today. There were what people called "hawks and doves." Johnny Cash described himself as a dove with claws. I honestly think that is to be a proper endeavor for Christians. We will fight only if forced to or very much necessary. We ought to be gentle and humble in heart, much like Christ, who incidentally did drive men out of the temple with a whip on 2 occasions.
I will share a personal example with you.
Recently, I was really messed over by a client in a real estate transaction. I am owed a very large commission up to thousands and thousands of dollars for having provided services that I could rightfully claim through lawsuit. This client of mine also has harassed and demeaned a local realtor and messed over another client of mine whom I was working with as well. I have every right to sue them legally and lawfully and obtain a commission based on my work. God has worked in my heart through this study to show me that God is my provider, and He has never once failed me and cares for me deeply. If He wanted me to have that income, He would provide it. If he cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, will He not richly provide many good things for me, His Kingdom child?
Secondly, far greater than a short term focus of money is my integrity and my love for Christ and others. Yes, it was a very ugly process, but I am not responsible for them and their choices, I am responsible for my actions and reactions. My focus should be on loving my "enemies." Showing love and Christ-likeness and not retaliation or seeking vengeance is to be the endeavor of every true Christian. Did I have a right to due process in this case? Yes, I did. But was it necessary or helpful? No, it was not. I refuse to cross the line that would have compromised my testimony. It's better to lose money that I can never take to heaven with me than to put people's eternities at risk. I still desire to have a working relationship with this person in order to continue sharing Christ.
I don't want to function in a spirit of entitlement. I want to do due diligence, to honor those we were dealing with and to represent Christ as powerfully as I can. I want to bless those who are giving me trouble. Again, it's a heart issue. It is possible to deal with significant sins and violations from other people if we learn how to handle the small issues and grievances with a Christ-like attitude. There's no room for entitlement in God's Kingdom here on earth whether it's a minor violation or a major assault against us. "If anyone slaps you on the cheek, turn you face and let him slap the other one also." Luke 6:29 An eye for an eye is not to be tolerated among God's people.
Entitlement is very hard to spot at times. It is a simple, subtle desire or expectation. We must ask our loving God to search our hearts and to reveal any and all selfish motivation, attitudes and responses. Left unchecked, selfish ambition will result in death and not Life.
You say, "Wow, that is a strong opinion." But it is not an opinion.
Entitlement puts us on the throne as others are scrutinized and ridiculed if they don't measure up. This is an anti-Christ spirit and we have to allow the Holy Spirit reveal that deadly heart issue to us. We must endeavor to consider others more important than ourselves. We must put our flesh to death and "crucify it with it's lusts and passions." Self worship (being spiritually entitled) is anti-Christian and it must be spotted, dealt with and killed when it rears it's ugly head in each and every one of us.
God help us to know if we are Kingdom Children or Kingdom Brats!
The next post will have a different emphasis, but we will have part 2 ready on Thursday as we examine that we are also entitled, not only towards other people, but towards God himself.
God bless you!
I am a great sinner saved by far greater grace. God has blessed me with a wonderful family and a beautiful Gospel congregation at Twin Lakes Bible Church.