“Contrary to belief, nobody owes you anything.”
Too many, too often, fall into the subtle trap of believing that life inherently owes them because of who they are or what they have done. This sharp trap holds them screaming for fairness.
Many of you read about the entitlement generation. An entire generation a young folk (born primarily in the 80’s) who, it is said, believe they have rights to certain privileges without justification. There’s a lot written about these young folk. And true as it may be, in my mind they have become the projection of all who feel inherently deserving.
To lay this shaming mind-trip solely on a single generation is narrow-minded. We all struggle, to some degree, with feeling entitled.
For example, in contradiction to the ‘me-generation’ we often hear “you’re only entitled to what you work for”. It is an argument influenced by a work ethic. Which, unfortunately, is also corrupted by a sense of entitlement.
This work ethic upholds an expectation that hard work entitles us to a certain standard of living. Concepts such as ‘laziness’ take firm hold in all conversations about poverty and ‘welfare’. And there is none of us that have not bought into this at some level.
Every generation attempts to make the best of what gets passed down. And whether we are entrenched by a 20th century philosophy on the importance of hard work, or attempting to make sense of a 21st century world that has gone crazy with transition (like our young folks must manage), entitlement has become intricately infused in our choices, and deeply entangled in how we feel about life in general.
Unfortunately our sense of entitlement has painted history blood red. It is the justification for many atrocities and is the root of much conflict… both personally and collectively. It creates anxiety and starts wars. It leads to emotional depression and ruins loving relationships. It turns neighbors into rivals and communities into factions.
It can even be argued that our Christian churches have historically encouraged a sense of entitlement (a sense of deserving something). Not only politically (eg; The Protestant Work Ethic) but through its moral compass pointing promisingly to Heaven (or Hell).
In my mind, a successful postmodern church has but one option as it transitions into a new time in history. It must acknowledge, “by the grace of God go I…and only by the grace of God go I. “
Entitlement, in its many subtle guises, needs give way to a dependency on grace, God’s grace. Which no one can predict or manipulate. And if we are going to work hard at something, let us work hard at not working hard to make things happen.
When Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic.” And he taught them to unassumingly stay where they are welcomed and leave where they are unwanted. And though Jesus told them to shake off the dust from towns that refuse them (a mindfulness practice), he was basically removing any sense of entitlement…and uplifting a reliance on grace alone.
As I see it, when we lose track of God’s grace, we are like salt that has lost its essence. And everything we touch is not, like we might want, preserved. But instead, and often confusingly so, spoiled. Tainted in some egocentric expectation.