“It’s just not fair!” Demanded my daughter, her face an unhappy scowl. Sometimes we don’t get what we want in life. I teach my children that we share in the wins and losses, but either way it is ok because God has our back. So this outburst was unusual for her. Then I saw the catalyst, her little friend continued the tirade of discontent. Dissention was ripe amongst the ‘losers’, their attitude driven by a strong sense of entitlement. They did not get their own way and they were going to let everyone know it.
And it happens that easily.
With one thought we are persuaded to follow a line of thinking that does not come from within. Children are easily influenced. Adults too. We take on a tone that does not fit with the one we should offer to the world around us or to the One above us.
I often find God speaks to me through my children... too much at times!
I found myself carrying similar vexatious thoughts one day. I was on my morning walk. Life had not been easy. Prayers were lost in a myriad of drama. Sickness had pushed me to the point of weariness. I felt overwhelmed and out of my comfort zone.
“Why God?” I implored Him.
“Haven’t I done everything right?”
Indignation began to grow... I began to list off how awesome I am. “I have served you faithfully, I tithe consistently, I seek you in prayer and word, I follow you wherever you lead. Surely all that counts for something!“
Huffing and disgruntled with my one-way dialogue, I put in my earphones and muttered... “It’s just not fair!”
Just then the speakers voice burst through my thoughts and I heard these words:
“When our prayers are not answered a sense of entitlement can creep in, we believe we have done something to earn our own way, BUT it is all due to grace.”
I stopped. Nail hitting head. My own words began to replay in my head and the sense of entitlement shone like a neon sign. My little tirade, an echo of my daughter’s, was just as self-centered. What I wanted, when I wanted it, how I wanted it. I had developed a belief that I was deserving of some special treatment or privilege and that the God of Heaven and Earth should answer me urgently. (YIKES! Whew... for that grace thing).
Entitlement declares that I believe I am inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. That I have the right to receive above others, and that my wishes should always be granted because of who I am. The word ‘entitled’ comes from the old world titles held by royalty; titles that were passed down from one generation to the next simply because of birthright. An entitled attitude often facilitates a self-focused attitude comparable to a child who believes the world revolves around them. It seeks to meet instantaneous needs and carries little understanding of the breadth and depth of the journey of life.
The two brothers in The Parable of the Prodigal Son had one thing in common, a strong sense of entitlement.
The younger one approached the Father, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” (Luke 15:12, NIV) The father did as the son requested, he recognised his entitlement and he released him to his own desires. The son soon found this path lead him no-where fast. What he perceived as his freedom became his prison.
The older brother stayed behind. He showed a deeper understanding of the blessings that were under his father’s roof. At first it appears he is more mature. Until, one day, the younger brother returns. Angry with his father for forgiving his brother, his inner sense of entitlement erupts, “These many years I have been serving you, I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.” (Luke 15:29) (I guess the goat was important!)
Sometimes entitlement comes because we are young, immature, and we don’t understand the wonderful privilege that is ours as children of Almighty God. And sometimes entitlement creeps in after many years of serving. We begin to take for granted our position and believe we have earned all we have. We forget where we have come from and how different our life would be without Jesus.
This is what the father reminded the older son of in Luke, “My son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.”
Endowment approaches life differently to entitlement. It recognises that what we have is a gift, that all we possess was given to us, not because we earned it or deserved it, but because the benefactor chose to endow us with something of value. It is not about us BUT it is for us. When we approach life with endowment as our frame of reference we shift our focus from greed to gratitude.
Both hold truth. We are endowed with a title. We are heirs, adopted into the most phenomenal family by the most majestic and gracious Father. (Ephesians 1, Galatians 4). We have untold authority, endless resources at our disposal, and we are seated in heavenly places. We, like the sons in the parable, have all that the Father has to offer, both His presence and His blessings. It is only when we believe we have earned those blessings from our own works that we feel dissatisfied, overwhelmed, and find ourselves walking away from the Father, just like the sons in the parable, instead of running to Him.
Learning to embrace a life of endowment yields many benefits; it is a beautiful gift that we can continually unwrap, layer after layer, we find rest, peace, wisdom, health, healing, prosperity, comfort and joy... the list is unending. The most precious part is the intimate access with the One who has endowed us. To know The Father as our Father, to have The Saviour as our Saviour, to experience The Holy Spirit as our comforter.
We are not entitled to any of this, but we are endowed with all of it. How blessed are we?