We all know that many people today suffer from the spiritual disease known as entitlement, where we believe that certain privileges and rights are due us. My dad has now put a medical sounding ring to the word by adding “itis” to it.
What are some of the areas we act entitled about?
There are three root problems to Entitle-itis. The first is comparing versus counting our blessings. In the story of the “Landowner and the Hired Workers,” Matthew 20 tells us that the ones who were hired early in the morning AGREED to the normal daily wage promised to them. But when the landowner hired other people at 9 AM, Noon, 3 PM, and 5 PM, and paid them the same daily wage as those hired early in the morning, the early morning hires protested, “Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’
The landowner replied, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?” (Matthew 20:1-15)
The workers cried, “Unfair!” However, an agreement had been made and they shook hands on it, which tells us that it wasn’t until they started comparing that the discontentment arose, and they felt entitled to more pay. Yet, the landowner was more than fair. He had been generous.
We are the same way. At least I know I am. There are occasions when I am very thankful for what I have, until I start to hold a measuring stick to what others have and begin to feel jealous.
When I was in high school, I attended a school for missionaries called Faith Academy. It was a great school with amazing people, friends and faculty, who loved God and were committed to Him. Most of the students I care across didn’t have much materially speaking because they were missionaries, so I didn’t really compare lifestyles. My dad was a businessman and self-supporting pastor. We grew up with means and our needs were always provided for. When I went to college, the story changed. Suddenly, almost everyone I knew came from wealth. They drove nice cars. They were given credit cards by their parents. Some of these people were ridiculously rich. For the first time I began to compare. Although it didn’t get the point where I felt entitled to more, I struggled with discontentment on occasion. I had to remind myself of the antidote: Count your blessings.
The same is true today. There will always be people who are wealthier, more accomplished, popular, and beautiful than me. Am I going to cry out, “Lord, why?” Or say instead, “Thank you for everything you have given to me. I don’t deserve any of it. It’s all your grace.”
Author or speaker, Craig Groeschel, so wisely put it, “The fastest way to kill something special is to compare. Whenever comparison begins, contentment ends. Comparison either makes us feel superior or inferior and neither of them honors God.”
The second root problem of Entitle-litis is the wrong perspective, the cure for which is the right one aka a spiritual one. When my dad and mom were on a ministry trip to Dubai, they stopped over in Berlin for a few days. Having taken a German airlines, they didn’t expect to encounter inefficiencies or delays. In my dad’s words, “German efficiency!”
However, upon arriving in Berlin, their bags were lost. They decided to wait at least a day to recover them but that day dragged on to two, three, four, five days. In fact, their luggages never showed up until they were back in Manila!
My dad shared how we was tempted to feel annoyed and frustrated, and he didn’t want to shop for new clothes at the onset, hoping that his bags would arrive at some point. My parents managed to reuse their same outfits on each of those five days, washing them by hand during the evenings. At some point, my dad ended up buying himself an extra shirt and underwear to be more comfortable, however it was the shift in perspective that made his time with my mom fun and romantic.
Pulling their hand carry through the airport on their way to Dubai, they looked at each other and smiled as my mom said, “This is how we started.”
The image of traveling light brought back memories of their youth, when they were first married. My dad added that it was pretty liberating to avoid the hassles of checking in their luggages and retrieving them during arrival, too.
The change in perspective was brought about by this reminder, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
According to him, the predictor of happy marriages is the ability of a husband and wife to be thankful. Even in relating to one another, don’t be focused on what you are entitled to. Instead, focus on what you value about the other.
The third root problem of Entitle-itis is insisting on our rights versus surrendering our rights. When I was younger my parents read to me the “Pineapple Story,” a true story about missionary, Otto Koning.
Otto was a missionary in New Guinea who worked among natives that had known only their village ways, such as stealing from others. When Otto tried his hand at growing pineapples, the only fruit he could grow on he island, the villages would steal them as they ripened. Frustratingly, Otto could never keep a ripe pineapple for himself, which made him angrier and angrier with the natives as the years went by.
One day he flew in a a German Shepherd dog to safeguard his pineapple garden since all other efforts failed. However, this kept the very natives he was trying to minister to away.
During a conference in the United States when he was on his furlough, he had an epiphany about personal rights. He had gotten so upset at the natives over the pineapples because he believed the garden belonged to him. He was entitled to eat its fruit. So he decided to surrender his garden to the Lord.
The natives noticed a big change when Otto returned to New Guinea. They continued to steal pineapples but Otto did not react in anger. Instead, the natives started to experience calamities in their village.
One of the natives finally approached Otto and said, “You must have become a Christian, Otto. You don’t get angry anymore. We always wondered if we would ever meet a Christian.”
In the past, they were never convinced that he was a Christian!
At the end of seven years, he finally witnessed his first conversion, and many began coming to Christ once he fully gave his garden to God. Furthermore, his fruit grew so abundantly that he had opportunities to export pineapples and even bananas.
What can we learn from this story?
We own nothing in this world. Everything belongs to God. Until we get that straight, we will have a mental list of rights that we believe we are entitled to. We will struggle with anger and bitterness when people or circumstances deny us those rights.
“For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.” (1 Timothy 6:6-7)
As I end this post, I want to add a fourth cure for Entitle-litis. My dad mentioned:
1. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
2. HAVE THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE
3. SURRENDER YOUR RIGHTS
We also need to have faith in who God is and trust Him. What makes all of the above possible is knowing who God is and how much He loves you and me. If we know God is the source of all our blessings we can be mindful of them. If we know that He is sovereign and in control even when things don’t go our way, we can be thankful. Our perspective doesn’t have to be an earthly one but a spiritual one. And if we feel like we are at the losing end of a deal, or we have been taken advantage of, we can let God do the fighting for us because our lives belong to Him. We can surrender our past, present, and future to Him.
“Sin grows when we think we deserve something from God. Godliness grows when we remember we are debtors to God.” – Timothy Keller
Don’t be entitled because God holds the title to your life and to mine! He paid for us with a great price. “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)