I have my rights, and so do you, for that matter. Let’s just start there. I have a right to eat a piece of chocolate cake if I want to. I have a right to state my opinion and be heard. I have a right to protect myself against harm. Not to mention we are blessed with the right to practice Christianity and carry our Bibles around and gather for prayer and uphold the name of Jesus (at least for now).
But what happens when a society turns inward for too long—focusing on their wants and needs and desires—more than anyone else’s? What happens when self-focus becomes the prescribed way of life?
A sense of entitlement begins to fester and brood and bleed into a culture that does not fear God. I have my rights! I can do what I want! And I will stand up for those rights, no matter who I may victimize in the process. That is scary. Always thinking about ourselves and no one else leaves deep scars, and it leads to senseless shootings and separated families and snide remarks and sin so bold that it’s terrifying even to the ungodly.
It’s festering in the Church, too.
And until we see it for what it is, it won’t change. Those arguments over worship style or service times or kids programming (or you name it) are due to a prevalent sense of entitlement that’s creeped not just into our culture, but the Church.
Signs of Entitlement in the Church and Beyond
This shows up in many different ways:
- We’ll go to church when and if it works for our schedule. (Never mind that God said to go.)
- I know what the Bible says, but you don’t have the right to judge me.
- That doesn’t work for our family, so we’re out.
- It’s my hard-earned money, so don’t tell me to give more.
These attitudes are not just because we have a difference of opinion, but because we feel entitled.
Yet it doesn’t stop there. Entitlement is festering still further into the family with disrespectful children who think they have a right to act however they want because they have parents who do whatever they want. Teachers have no control in the classroom because of entitlement. The marriage bed has lost its sanctity because of entitlement. Babies are being aborted because of entitlement.
Not to mention road rage, lawsuits, senseless arguments, “strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [and] envy” (Gal. 5:20–21). “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16).
Reality Check: We Are Not Entitled
The truth is, we are not entitled. There is only One who is entitled, and He is the LORD God. He created the world and holds it together. He formed us, breathing life where there was none. Therefore, to God alone all glory and honor is due from all creation and from all people, with every breath we take.
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. (Ps. 86:8–10)
He alone is God, yet when we walk around with a sense of entitlement blanketing our thoughts and emotions and reactions, we put ourselves in the place of God. And thus, we buy into the same lie that the serpent spoke to Eve: we’re entitled to break the rules when we want to and decide for ourselves what’s best for us.
Chaos is the result of believing this lie, just as it was on the day of Adam and Eve’s initial sin. When we demand that God do this or that for us and He doesn’t, it’s chaos for our faith. When we demand our husbands do this or that for us and they don’t, it’s chaos for our marriage. Or if we walk into a family gathering with a sense of rights over this or that, it’s not only chaos for our relationships, but chaos in our hearts.
Humility Is the Way to Peace in Chaos
Where there is humility, there is peace. If the world feels out of control, it’s because the world is busy demanding its own way. And if your world feels out of control, perhaps it’s because you’ve been busy demanding your own way. (Sorry, but I had to say it.) For “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).
Recently I was asked to do something I did not want to do. It felt overwhelming, and honestly, I saw it as a violation of my right to say no. Don’t I already have enough on my plate? For days I fretted and fumed, and the result was chaos inside my body. My stomach hurt, I didn’t feel like eating (a rare occurrence for me), and my mind was a cluttered mess.
Help me Lord, I prayed. What do I do? Surrender. Trust me and surrender. That’s the urging I felt from the Lord. And you know what? When I finally did surrender to His will and way, releasing what I felt was my right in the situation, I had instant peace. I’m not even kidding. The result was so miraculous it startled me.
Laying Down Our Rights Is Joy-Filling
Giving up our so-called rights is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of godliness. It’s the way of Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Getting what we want when we want it does not give us joy. Laying down our rights for the sake of God’s will and God’s way is what produces joy in our hearts.
We don’t need to demand that it’s our way or the highway, because we have a God who is just and faithful and sovereign and sees which works are done for His glory and which are not. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. . . . Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:6, 10).
Living with an attitude of entitlement will get us nowhere, friend. It’s not God’s way. It squelches the work of the Spirit in our lives, sending us down all kinds of prideful paths. But laying down our rights as Christ did, for the glory of God and the name of God and the hope of the gospel, is fulfilling.
It might feel awkward and go against everything we’re feeling, but fighting the epidemic of entitlement begins with us—not others. Whether that means not being mad when someone takes your parking spot or laying down precious alone time or trusting the pastoral staff as they take us in a new direction or asking God to help us forgive that one family member who hurt us—we can, because we have a sovereign God who went first.
Yes we have our rights, but so did Jesus, who for the joy set before Him gave them all up. Yet not to worry, my friend, our gracious God can’t wait to pour out His great grace on the humble. So let’s not waste another day feeling entitled, but instead let us walk humbly with our God in every decision we make.