Bernie Sanders is one presidential candidate who is running on the premise of giving people free stuff. He is promising free college, and people are eating it up; never bothering to ask who will pay for their free college. People feel they deserve free college and other free things, so they don't care where the money is going to come from so they can have free stuff.
There are a lot of people who see a problem with this entitlement ideology that seems to be growing more and more rampant. It isn't pretty to see selfish and lazy people demanding free college, free healthcare, free cell phones, free food, and anything else they can think of..... and it isn't pretty that there are people determined to give it to them.
Sometimes I worry this attitude has crept into the church and into our lives as Christians. I deal with depression, and have been frustrated lately with it. I have prayed, I have taken the pills the doctor prescribed; and there are times it is still bad. Thankfully, it isn't bad all of the time. I was praying as I drove to work this morning, and kind of sort of asked God why I have to deal with it when I already have other tough things to deal with - or something along that line. I immediately felt checked, and felt God say to me what I am trying to say in this blog post.
Jesus gave His life and died for our sins. What more does He have to do? As the song says "He gave His life, what more could He give?" Living for God involves daily taking up a cross and denying ourselves. That has almost become a dirty word to Christians. Oh, we like to give up something for 40 days for Lent; but give up anything for 365 days of the year? No way Jose'.
I see 3 areas we Christians tend to feel entitlement in:
1) We are entitled to our beliefs
I see and hear more often this attitude that we Christians can do whatever we want. It has ceased to be "what would God want me to do in this area?" and has become "It is my right. The Bible doesn't specifically say I can't do it, so I am doing it." Very rarely do people reference God. It is usually "I feel", "I believe", "I, I, I, I".
Case in point: I was discussing modesty and made the case that Christian women should be more careful how they dress so as to not cause men more temptation, since men are more visually stimulated and women shouldn't dress in ways to trip men up. A friend commented "No man is going to make me dress a certain way. It is all on men to deal with lust and temptation, not on women." Since the Bible doesn't specifically say how low your blouse should be, how short your dress or shorts should be, etc.; she and many others feel they have the right to expose as much skin as they want to expose, and if it causes their Christian brothers a problem..... well that is tough. (For the record, men hold the same responsibility and need for modesty.... I can attest to that.) That is an extreme example, but I am afraid it is indicative of American Christianity.
Another case in point: Gay men and women ignoring what the Bible says, and claiming to be Christians while living the lifestyle they want to live. They should't have to be alone, they shouldn't have to be denied love and sex..... they deserve happiness even if they have to reason around and ignore what the Bible says.
It is true that we are not under law, but under grace...yet even the New Testament says if we love God we will keep His commandments. We won't take this entitlement idea and run with it, thinking it is up to us to decide everything. It isn't up to us to decide how we dress, how we spend our time, what kind of music we listen to, what kind of TV shows and movies we watch.... or if we should watch TV and movies. We can't please God and watch movies like 50 Shades of Grey. We can't please God and run around in a bikini and thong, or just in a speedo. We don't have the right to decide everything for ourselves. If we are truly surrendered to God and His will and are denying ourselves, we give Him a blank piece of paper and sign our name at the bottom. We don't have the right to believe whatever we want.
2) We are entitled to material comforts
And then we tend to feel since we are Christians, we deserve "stuff". We have to have the most expensive smart phones with all of the bells and whistles. We need a newer car, even though the one we have is running fine. We need cable TV with all of the channels we like. We have to have a nice house with a two car garage. We have to eat what we want and how much we want. We deserve a comfortable life and lifestyle. The prosperity Gospel people have taken this idea and built their churches and religion around it. We are God's children, and He wants us to have the best..... but does He?
God doesn't promise wealth. He doesn't promise mansions on this earth. Our reward is in Heaven, not here on the earth. It is OK to have nice things, and things that are not necessary to our survival; but we - and I do mean we - have this idea that since we make the money working for a living, then we should be able to spend it how we want and on what we want. If we tithe, too often we have the attitude that we have given God His part, and the rest is ours to spend on our toys, our books, our guns, our golf clubs, our new furniture, and anything else our hearts desire that fit into our funds or our credit line.
But it is all God's money. We don't need everything we think we need, and get too focused on what are actually wants and comforts. Do we really need a smart watch? Do we really need another pair of shoes? Do we really need a Starbucks coffee every morning? Do we have to have the newest iPhone?
I'm as guilty as the next person. I don't always think of it as "I deserve this", but the attitude is there whether or not I am consciously thinking it or not.
3) We are entitled to a problem free life
We Christians tend to expect a problem-free life when we come to Christ. We don't understand it when we deal with sickness, job loss, a death of a loved one, attractions to the same sex that causes us to live a celibate and lonely life, a cheating spouse, divorce, a broken heart, depression, and anything that causes us physical or emotional pain. I - and a lot of other Christians - tend to think we shouldn't have to deal with the things we deal with as Christians, and God should take care of the problem if we pray and ask Him.
Take my own struggle. I can't count the hours I have spent praying for it to go away. I can't count the times I have begged God to take it away. Yet, it has made me a stronger Christian and person. It has made me need to pursue God more than if it wasn't there. It has helped me make friends I would not have otherwise, and given me compassion for people dealing with the same and other issues. If God had done as I expected and wanted Him to years ago, I may not even be serving Him.
And maybe that is why God doesn't give us life on a silver platter. Not only would we become even more entitlement minded - and spoiled brats - but we wouldn't need Him. The trials, failures, struggles, weaknesses, and pain we go through helps us realize how much we need God and His help and strength. We would never be of any value or use to God if we got everything we wanted. God would be a genie in a bottle as we lived our lives of ease and entitlement.
God owes us nothing. He has already given us the greatest things we could ever have: mercy, grace, forgiveness, life.....do we truly grasp the realities of what we already have? The wickedest of us can repent and be washed white as snow to never have our sins remembered against us again by God. In the face of that, how dare we feel entitled to anything else from Him?
I don't want more "stuff". I don't want a life of entitlement and ease. I want God's will for my life. I want to be surrendered to Him and His will, even if it means dealing with depression for the rest of my life, even if it means a celibate and unmarried life, even if it means not having all the comforts and toys that I want.
There is no room for entitlement in serving God. We deserve death and hell, but He has given us grace, mercy, forgiveness, and eternal life... what more could we ask for? What more do we think we deserve? I for one am thankful He has not given me what I deserve or what I am truly entitled to, but has given me love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.