Entitlement. Wow, what a buzz-word in our culture today.
Whole generations of people are disparaged when judged to be entitled. Their opinions are not counted, voices are muted, and expressions are misunderstood. The extent of this disparagement is so severe that along with the alleged entitlement is accompanying apathy and cynicism.
The entitlement mindset has reached into issues of politics and racial injustice. Some say that the music industry and film industry are filled with young, entitled artists who believe they deserve the fame, fortune, and wealth they’ve amassed. Older adults remember the “good old days” when their ideals were hard work and commitment. When getting your hands dirty for work was the norm, families worked through their problems, and there were winners and losers in sports.
There are so many varied opinions on if the “good old days” were actually good. Or whether we’ve made any progress at all in society today. However, there is no argument about the fact that entitlement is a huge issue in our world today.
What exactly is entitlement?
The definition states that entitlement is “the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.” Many people believe we, as Americans, have created a culture of entitlement in our children and young adults through some sort of flawed parenting. Is any of this true? Perhaps.
If it is true that we live in a culture of entitlement, what is the remedy? As church leaders, we can encourage the people under our leadership to come to, together, focus our attitudes and our minds toward empathy and generosity. These character traits can be the antidote to the entitlement we are facing today. Our future can be one that is more outward-focused, bighearted, and kind to our fellow humankind, both in our own sphere of influence and around the world.
Here are some important things to remember when we are trying to move away from entitlement and move toward empathy and generosity.
Remember there are those who have fewer privileges than we do.
Whether it is based on race, economics, gender, sexuality, or religion, there are always people who have fewer privileges than we do. Those people may live in our neighborhood or across town. They may live on the other side of the world. What can we be doing to show them God’s love, reach out to them in practical ways? What can we do to make them a tangible part of our world and give them access to the privileges we enjoy? This takes creativity, time, effort, and a lot of work. But these people are worth it.
Show them Jesus’ love, always.
Remember there are those who have fewer material resources than we do.
The poor of this world need our help. We must be driven to share it. Escaping an entitlement mindset requires us to give away more than we ever thought possible. Find reputable non-profits who are serving the poor and give to them. Find people in your own neighborhood who could use meals or clothes. Give to them. Support local organizations that create jobs for unskilled laborers. Help the poor to break the cycle of poverty and better their economic circumstances permanently.
Remember that life is fleeting and can change in a moment.
The loss of a job. A drastic change in health. The death of a loved one. We never know what tomorrow holds. Today we live in a secure nuclear family with all its parts in place; tomorrow, our sole source of income dies leaving us with no future financial security. Today we were entitled. Tomorrow we are impoverished. This can happen to anyone. Remember that there are so many people who are poor simply because tragedy struck. Reach out to them. Help them. Feel their pain and be generous. Tomorrow it could be you.
Remember that there are no guarantees in life.
Even those who work hard for 60-80 hours a week doing manual labor with a stellar work ethic struggle financially. Life is hard for so many people. Even though people do everything right, there is no guarantee that life will be easy. Trying hard does not ensure success. Material success is not an inalienable human right. Sometimes it seems that those who work the hardest, struggle the most. Help those who are struggling, those who need a break. Babysit their kids. Provide a meal. Fix their car. Don’t forget them.
Remember we are created for community.
Jesus teaches us over and over again that we need one another. We can rid ourselves of entitlement when we remember that we are not alone in this world. We are one with those around us. Their needs are our needs. Our wealth can be their wealth. We should share. We must provide for those in need. God would have it no other way. The disciples and the early Church shared everything. They set the example and it is our responsibility to follow. In those early days, the Church grew in number so quickly.
Non-believers were drawn to the Living God because of the love of God’s people for one another. Let us love one another in the same way.
Overall, remember that ultimately all we have is the Lord’s and it is His to give and His to take away. We should be generous as He is generous. As is recited many times, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. All the world’s riches are his. He can provide whenever He wants to provide. We should trust Him and encourage others to trust Him. Sometimes, however, God chooses to use us to meet other’s needs. He wants us to increase our empathy quotient so we feel others’ pain and then respond in generosity. We can eliminate an entitlement mentality in this way, bringing glory to God and bringing help to all humankind.