America has a peculiar epidemic: about 80 percent of Americans are in debt.
We all need a smart phone for work these days. We need a new car in order to avoid pesky repair bills and to fit all the kids. We pretty much need cable to decompress after work; it’s personal care, after all. We have to send our children to a tier 1 college, and that’s getting more expensive every year. A mortgage on a house is good debt anyway, right?
Wait…how many of these things do we actually need, or is it that we simply feel entitled to them?
The Black Hole of Entitlement
No two ways about it, entitlement is a poisonous mentality.
“When people feel entitled, they are not merely disappointed when others fail to accommodate their presumed rights, they feel cheated and wronged,” Doctor Steven Stosny explains in his article in Psychology Today.
“They get angry, exude hostility, and assume a stronger sense of entitlement as compensation. Of course, once we're older than five and not cute anymore, the world is not likely to meet our entitlement needs.
“So it gets to be a downward spiral — the more they don't get what they're sure they deserve, the more justified they feel in demanding compensation…. Not surprisingly, criminals, domestic violence offenders, aggressive drivers, and abusers of all kinds have been observed to have exaggerated entitlement.”
Dr. Stosny goes on to discuss the lost art of humility and how recognizing that we are no better than others actually has great benefits for both the individual and society.
“Every sin is relational, so all obedience and holiness are relational as well toward God and others,” Gary Wilkerson muses in his podcast about hiding under a false sense of worth.
Certainly, this is a viewpoint that the Bible espouses. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 ESV). The heart of salvation is recognizing that we’ve chosen separation from God, and that he’s bridged the gap at enormous personal cost for us to have relationship with him again.
If we’ve truly grasped that concept, then there’s not much room left for entitlement.
A New or Very Old Epidemic?
While some might claim that entitlement is an epidemic for the current generation, nothing in history really backs up that statement. All the way back to biblical times, people have felt they deserve better than they got.
Cain killed Abel in a jealous rage because God didn’t approve of his sacrifice (Genesis 4:1-16). The Israelites complained that the food from heaven wasn’t good enough for them (Numbers 11). In Luke 17, Jesus restored ten lepers with a word, but only one returned to thank him for the miraculously healing.
In the early days of the United States’ history, President Lincoln spoke on our need for thankfulness when he called for a day of fasting and prayer.
He wrote, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven ….But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”
As we examine our lives and circumstances, we must acknowledge that all of the goodness around us is a gracious blessing from our Father. We don’t have a “right” to the riches of the world and certainly not to live beyond our means.
David sets an example of the right mentality in Psalm 100:4, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”
Cultivating a New Spirit of Gratitude
Ann Voskamp is one of today’s leading voices on the refinement of gratitude. Her book One Thousand Gifts is chiefly concerned with our fresh awareness and practice of gratitude to God.
“Ultimately, we’re all fallen; our default is to be more like Satan, to always be ungrateful.” Voskamp points out in a podcast. “So what are we going to do? Intentionally turn our hearts and say, ‘I’m going to be grateful for everything God gives me.’”
This mentality of always looking for things to be grateful for has powerful effects.
“Saying 'thank you' will always reveal unseen blessings. We can’t control the Giver, but we can always expect one gift: the power to hope,” points out Eric Demeter in his article on gratitude as a spiritual discipline.
This isn’t just blithe positivity or ignoring bad events or situations. The true heart of gratitude is constantly keeping what God has done for us in front of us.
“The Bible says that we love because he first loved us,” Gary Wilkerson reminds viewers in one his 86 Seconds devotionals. “Oh, the great, great love of God that he has for you today. Don’t forget it! Remember how much he loves you; it’ll change your whole day.”
Rachel Chimits is a writer for World Challenge, a global ministry that encourages people to live a better life and make a better world through Jesus Christ.