Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Trap of Entitlement


The Trap of Entitlement
…There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. - Hebrews 11:35-38 (NIV)
“I've worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death's door time after time. I've been flogged five times with the Jews' thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I've been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I've had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I've been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I've known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.
And that's not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.” -Paul in 2 Cor. 11:23-29 (the Message)
I find it disturbing when I find myself in a place where I begin to feel entitled as a follower of Christ. What I mean is that I begin to feel I “deserve or earned” certain rights, privileges or ways of being treated by others and, at times, even by God Himself, just because I am a follower of Christ and sometimes even as a citizen of the United States America. It is a place where I begin to feel that somebody owes me something. I find that when I am in this place or state of mind I usually end up on the road to resentment and that is a very dangerous place to be.
Recently I have been looking at the life of King David. Can you imagine if the leaders of the country came to you and said, “You have been picked to be our next leader”? This is what happened to David. David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons. Even some scholars think he may have even been an illegitimate son of Jesse. He was sent by his father to tend sheep, a lonely, thankless job, one that was certainly on the low end of the social scale of the day. One day he was called from the fields and was anointed to be King of Israel by Samuel the Prophet. Eugene Edwards writes that he was then promoted from being a shepherd to a busboy for his older brothers in the army. Later he kills a giant, an enemy of the people of Israel, when no one else had the guts to meet the giant’s challenge, not even the current King.
So, now, here is David, anointed to be King and he has just killed one of the greatest enemies of his country. He is then invited by the current King, Saul, to join him in the royal palace and is soon to find himself facing the business end of the spears that are being thrown at him by Saul. David finds himself soon running away and living in caves like an animal. Not only that, but now he finds himself hunted by Saul. On the run, his very life threatened and living like an animal, is this the way you think he would be spending his life as the oil ran down his head when he was anointed to be king, the way the life should be for the “man after God’s own heart”? I can’t imagine it was. If it were I, I would be thinking of all the great things I could do as the king, nothing like this.
Now David didn’t like this and he did make that known to God (read the Psalms). However, you never hear the voice of entitlement coming from him. David does eventually become King of Israel, but not by his own hand, he allows God to put him on the thrown. Later, once he is king, his own son rises up against him and again David could have felt entitled to keep his kingdom, but instead he leaves. His attitude is that the kingdom belongs to God and if he wants me on the throne then He will keep me there. David could have felt entitled, but he didn’t.
Later in the New Testament, we read about the Apostle Paul, another man that had an opportunity to feel entitled. Yet when we read what his life was like in the Book of 2nd Corinthians (quoted above), it does seem like it was one of entitlement. In fact the other Apostles, Peter, James, Andrew were all martyred and the Apostle who wasn’t martyred was imprisoned for life. These men changed the world, as we know it; they turned it on its ear. Yet when we read about their lives, like David, they weren’t lives of entitlement.
So, if the examples of David, Paul, Peter and the others, to say nothing about the life of Jesus Himself, are not ones of entitlement, why would I even begin to allow myself to consider that I am entitled to anything more? Because I follow Christ, because I live in the USA? Could I be anymore arrogant?
No, at best, I stand on the shoulders of those gone before me. If for some reason I am not called to pay the same price that they did, then it is only by God’s grace and mercy on my life, not because I deserve or have earned anything.
I stated earlier that entitlement leads to the road of resentment. Resentment will do nothing but destroy my walk with God. An attitude of entitlement is steps on that road. The problem is that an attitude of entitlement is so subtle; I often don’t see it until some damage has been done. So how do I keep myself from it? I must respond in the opposite spirit, I must respond to life with gratitude.

On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence. Know this: God is God, and God, God. He made us; we didn't make him. We're his people, his well-tended sheep. Enter with the password: "Thank you!" Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank him. Worship him. For God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love, loyal always and ever. – Psalm 100 (The Message)
Do you see what we've got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. – Hebrews 12:28 (The Message)
Okay, I think it is time once again for me to look at my gratitude list.

Tim, E Coach for Celebrate Recovery NW AR Fellowship Bible


For information about Celebrate Recovery contact Rodney at 479-659-3679 or roholmstrom@fellowshipnwa.org

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