Spiritual Entitlement

I recently saw the following quote in an online article: "Entitlements  are the greatest domestic challenge the nation faces." This may or may not be correct, but the word entitlement got my attention. We have been hearing it a lot lately.

All of us feel entitled to something in this world, whether it is from our government, our families or our friends. Most often it represents some benefit that either by familiarization or opportunity we have an expectation of receiving. It is not necessarily something we deserve or have earned, but we have become accustomed to it and we want it.

If we think something is always going to be available to us, it shows in our behavior. In secular matters we can often see waste and misuse of entitled services or products by those who receive them. For instance, Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment compensation, food stamps and the like are often cited as targets of fraud and abuse.

In other words, if we assume that something will always be available, our attitude can lead us to take advantage of the situation. This often results in abuse of the lawful benefits extended to us.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to political or social environments. These human characteristics can find their way into our spiritual lives as well. If we look to God merely as the provider of an entitled life with Him in the hereafter, then the entitlement mentality we see in the world also may define our relationship with God.

Paul seemed to see the potential of an entitled attitude in the Christians at Rome. He addressed those who thought it a good thing to allow God's grace to cover their sins over and over again:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? ... Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin (Rom. 6:1-2, 6).

While God is faithful to forgive us our sins, we are still instructed to not serve sin. While God is willing to erase our accountability for our sin, repentance also involves the realization that we have done wrong and are reordering our lives so as not to revisit that wrong.

We are fortunate to have a Creator who wants us to be with Him and is longsuffering toward us, giving us ample opportunity to serve Him instead of sin. We will fail from time to time, but if we expect that God owes us salvation and forgiveness, then we may have succumbed to a spiritual entitlement mentality.

This is easy to do. Even the apostles fell into the entitlement trap. Peter is often singled out as impetuous, but he likely expressed thoughts common to some of the other disciples. In Luke 18, he seems to be saying: "What about us? See what we have left behind? What are we going to get from our sacrifice?"

Then Peter said, "Lo, we have left all, and followed thee." And he said unto them, "Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting." (Luke 18:28-30)

Jesus' message was quick and direct: No one will give up more in this life than the blessing he or she will receive from God -- either in this life or in life everlasting. This is such a great gift to consider!

There is nothing one can do to become entitled to salvation. Rather, it is a gift of God. God's grace, both in this life and in eternity, far outweighs any indebtedness that our actions may merit from God.

The idea of entitlement involves access to guaranteed benefits. While salvation is underwritten by Jesus' death and resurrection, we have commandments to obey before we can receive it. If we think we deserve salvation because of our own worth, if we do not prepare ourselves for service, or if we refuse to live according to God’s word, then we block God's grace from covering our sins.

If we continue in willful disobedience, this wonderful gift of God can and will be removed from our grasp.