In the last post, I ranted awhile about the unattractive sense of entitlement that exists in our culture, and even within the church. Forgive me if I seemed especially snarky–I think those sentiments had been stirring in my soul for weeks since I got back from Europe, and I never really had an opportunity to vent.
That said, I’ve been pondering some of the things I said toward the end of that post, particularly about presenting requests to God with thanksgiving. I am pondering the idea that a thankful heart can be an antidote for the entitlement mentality that is so contagious around us. And as I sit here with my coffee on a pretty Thanksgiving morning, it seems a good time to ponder this some more.
You see, as I mentioned somewhere in my rant, I wasn’t necessarily going off on everyone but me. I know that I have a tendency to feel entitled at times, which is why I said it’s contagious. The whole culture shock thing, and seeing the entitlement all around me in returning to the States, wasn’t just me being pissed off at Americans (or Christians), but also being convicted about my own attitudes. For me, the entitlement has often appeared when I’m inconvenienced by someone else. When someone cuts me off on the road, or when I’m in a hurry and my food at the restaurant is taking too long, or when it comes to the table being not what I ordered…those are the instance where I feel entitled. (Do they know how much I’m paying for this meal? How dare they take too long getting it here, and why did they get my order wrong? Do they think I have all day?) I almost never lash out at people over this stuff (unless I’ve had a particularly stressful day and they are just the tipping point), but I’ll fume over it in a sort of passive-aggressive way. This is just one example.
But what for? And why? It usually isn’t because I really have somewhere to be, or because they really have done me wrong. It’s because I feel entitled, and I’m offended because I’m not getting what I feel I deserve. And now that I’ve seen it from a different angle, I’m no longer offended at the other person–I’m offended at myself for feeling that way.
Let me revisit the Scripture I quoted:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” –Philippians 4:6, NIV (emphasis mine)
Most of us think of this in terms of being fearful–don’t be afraid, but instead ask God with thankfulness. And that’s true. But anxiety is not just about fear–anxiety has to do with stress in general. And make no mistake, when our sense of entitlement is violated, anxiety surges. In the context of prayer, we sometimes approach God with a sense of demand, even anger, when we feel we’re not getting what we’re entitled to. Paul is telling us this is not the right approach. Instead, he tells us not to give in to our anxiety, but to approach God with a grateful, thankful heart, and then present our requests to Him.
I said a moment ago that we get anxious when our sense of entitlement is violated–when we’re not getting what we feel we deserve. Let’s put this into the right perspective…really try to understand why Paul suggests anxiety is not the way to approach God.
Here it is: If we all really got what we deserved, we’d all be dead. Every last one of us.
We’ve all sinned, and the wages of sin is death.
Do we really want what we’re entitled to receive?
That’ll cure entitlement right there.
Here’s the thing. This covenant we have with God? These promises He’s made to us, that He will fulfill in His way/time? We did nothing to deserve any of it. It’s all by grace. Every breath we take is a gift of God’s grace. Every day that we live is a blessing we did not earn and don’t actually deserve, whether sinners or saints. He rains on the just and the unjust. It’s all by grace. When we really think about this, the whole entitlement thing really starts to smell bad. It’s a completely inappropriate response. This is why the Bible teaches so much about humility and gratefulness, and why Jesus Himself created an example for us to follow by lowering Himself to wash His disciples feet.
The attitude and acts of thanksgiving are when we actively remember all the things we’ve been granted that we didn’t deserve–which is pretty much everything. That’s why I believe thanksgiving is an antidote for entitlement–not only in relation to God, but in relation to others. Just remembering that we aren’t the most important people on the planet, and that everything we possess is a gift to be grateful for, right down to the air we breathe, helps put things into perspective.
So these days, since my trip abroad, I’m trying to be more mindful in my daily dealings. I notice that I’m a bit more patient at the restaurant. I’m trying to look beyond the end of my nose, looking past my own problems and being more aware of others and what they might be going through. And this morning, in particular, I’m very aware of just how much I have to be thankful for–including you, the readers who relate to me on this blog.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.