Q. Are you replacing God's presence with God's presents? Entitlement, the threat to God's blessings.
Entitlement: the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. The spirit of entitlement is possibly the biggest threat to the Christian faith today. It is the unseen virus of pandemic proportion threatening the lives of many, while we sit silently on the sideline oblivious to it's existence. It's like carbon monoxide poisoning, you can't see it in the air, but in just a short period of time, the damage becomes fatal.
At a recent book signing, a woman approached me beaming, expressing that she loved the soap opera character I played on her favorite daytime soap and proceeded to ask various questions about the tv character and her love interest and the like. Meanwhile, in line behind her, was a woman, clutching a crumpled tissue in her hand, that would glance at me and then quickly look away. The first woman went on to talk about what prompted her to buy the book, but then asked if I would sign it using my character's name. I said I would include the character's name, but would need to sign it as myself. Then out of curiosity I asked her why? She said, "You're Ronnie Lawrence (the character) you didn't deserve all that other stuff. I don't want to see you that way. I smiled and nodded, and simply said, true.
Up stepped this petite woman with her book, with pages already dog eared. After a few niceties I asked her what had resonated with her in the book that she had already folded back pages. At that point she gently lifted her tissue to her eyes and said, "you gave me the courage I needed to walk away with nothing and to trust that God will take care of me. That I was not alone."
She has stuck with me as a reminder not only of why I wrote Rebound, but why I had to fight my own battle of entitlement. After all, as the first woman said, I started this journey believing I deserved better. 'Don't you know who I am?' were my unspoken words, but ended the journey grateful that the journey had developed me into the woman God needed me to be.
Entitlement comes out of what we think we deserve. We are drowning in a sea of what we think we deserve. I began to exam my spirit of entitlement when I started to look closely at my relationship with God and came face to face with my attitudes of resentment, bitterness and frustration with the Heavenly Father. Nothing that would ever be verbalized, but it was there, so I had to ask myself why?
I was led to Matthew 20: 1-16
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.
When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Entitlement poisons relationships especially your relationship with God.
"Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? or are you envious because I am generous?" God was asking me, Are you angry because I'm so generous? Because of who I chose to bless or not bless in this moment. Why are you deserving of blessings, but someone else is not?
If we strip back the layers of our religious pride we'll acknowledge the depth of entitlement in God's church and his people. Not unlike the world, we compare ourselves to others and cry over God's lack of deliverance, why is she getting married and I 'm not - I've been faithful longer? Why are they always lifted up, they're not that spiritual. Why does he get to preach and I don't? I know the bible just as well.
Or as James says in Jam. 4: 1-3, What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Entitlement is wrapping yourself in the presents (the gifts) of God, but not in the presence of God. It's dangerous because it will not just cost you joy, but it will cost you heaven.
Entitlement towards God - is thinking we deserve good things including entering into heaven because I have a good heart or I've done good things in this life.
I'm not entitled to anything but hell, but the blood of Jesus, God's mercy and grace opens the door for me to enter. Not because of me, but because of Him.
No matter what fires you've had to walk through, you did not work your way to God, but God has worked his way to you.
He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. (Ps. 18:35)
God paid for my sin. He stooped low to make me great.
Does that make me entitled? By no means, it makes me grateful!