Thursday, August 23, 2012
Today’s Topic: Entitlement
Today’s Text: Luke 7:4 (ESV) And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him…”
I haven’t felt that blessed for a long time. I am convinced it is because I had no expectations or demands. That’s what brings the real joy when a gift is received.
Last Sunday I delivered to our congregation God’s message from Luke 7 on the subject of Entitlements. The Roman Centurion who had a gravely ill servant sent two groups of representatives to Jesus to ask for the healing of the highly valued employee. The first group misrepresented the true character of the Centurion by using the entitlement argument to try and convince Jesus to help. “He is worthy…” The second group was the Centurion’s friends, and they spoke the truth about his humble nature. “I am not worthy…”
We live in a culture that has infected the church with an entitlement mentality. Christians have bought into this arrogant philosophy of self-advancement without self-effort. We believe that the world owes us payment for whatever we have defined as personal pain or loss in our lives. We have set up a personal standard of qualification for reward, and we expect people, employers, benefit programs or governments to pay up because it’s our right.
Prior to Sunday the Lord had really dealt with me on my own personal guilt in this area. Since Sunday He has confirmed what he has been teaching me. The lesson is simple, but so hard to do. But over the last two days I saw it happen. God will bless us if we just stop expecting it.
Tuesday afternoon my wife and I left on a short trip to a place we had never been before. Wednesday is my normal day off, so we decided to get away overnight and relax in Bayfield and enjoy the Apostle Islands. Aside from the incredible beauty of God’s creation which simply thrills me, God did some things that blew me away. They were totally unexpected. They were things I didn’t demand. They were things I did not feel entitled to.
On the drive up north, I turned to Denise and said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to see a bear run across the road?” It was said so simply, so casually, and so uncharacteristically care-free. There was not even a hint of entitlement in the statement. I was not thinking these things at the time and evaluating my motives and planning my words to somehow conform to God’s commands; I just said the words with freedom. Ninety minutes later, as we approached Bayfield and I look down a side road to a marina entrance, a bear ran across the access road. I was thrilled and overjoyed, because I had not expected it.
On Wednesday morning as we travelled by boat out to Devil’s Island to see the sea caves and the lighthouse, I turned again to Denise and said in the same attitude as before, “Wouldn’t it be cool to see a freighter out here?” Without thinking about my rights or how the trip would be ruined if it didn’t happen, I just made a statement. Thirty minutes later Denise nudged me and said, “Look, there’s your freighter.” Sure enough, on the horizon and getting closer, was one of the 1000 foot freighters heading towards Duluth. Then twenty minutes later, there was another one.
By this time Denise is wondering why I am getting everything I ask for. I begin to evaluate it as well, and realize that for one of the first times in my life I have been asking with no sense of entitlement. It was such a blessed realization.
When we got back to the city dock in Bayfield, that captain of the boat announced that one of the gift shops in town had done a drawing of one name from among the 200 plus passengers on the two ships and that the person would win a prize. As we disembarked I was thinking in my mind about where the car was and where we were going to get lunch and what else we wanted to see. Denise asked, “Aren’t you going to check in the gift store?” My first thought was, “Why, I never win anything?” But I think that thought lasted less time than any other time in my life. It immediately smacked of entitlement, and I hated it. So as Denise waited outside I stepped into the store and saw my name on the wipe-off board above the cash register.
I just about fell over. I walked outside and signaled for Denise to come inside with me, and I stood in line with my identification in hand and collected my prize. It was a beautiful print of an original watercolor painting of all the lighthouses on the Apostle Islands. Many of you know my love for lighthouses and windmills. This was an awesome gift, even though it’s basically a poster, and I told the clerk how much it meant to me.
There is incredible joy to be experienced when entitlement is conquered. Expectations are the enemy of joy. Demands are the death of thanksgiving. The pursuit of happiness is the cancer of the Christian life, for it can only be achieved through pre-meditated conditions and circumstances that when not achieved leave us demolished and demoralized.
Thank you Jesus for disciplining me in this area of my life. And thank you for immensely for taking the conversation about entitlement beyond the level of how it applies to others and making it personal for me.
May the Lord do the same for you! Be careful not to think that entitlement isn’t affecting you too.