Wednesday, February 28, 2007

against entitlement

One application of yesterday's post on following Christ communally, is to speak against the sense of entitlement I pick up among us Christians, and in which I've lived, as well.

I use "entitlement" here as the idea that I'm entitled to something or, I have certain "rights". That certain people owe me. Like my spouse. Or children. My employer, "boss", fellow employees. My pastor and church. My nation.

Looking at yesterday's passage, we see that if we take on the attitude of mind that Christ had, in our relationships with one another, we will take on an entirely different attitude than entitlement. Instead we will in humility, value others above ourselves. We will look, not to our own interests, but to the interests of the others. And we will take Christ's attitude of mind to heart, daily in our lives. Seeing ourselves on common ground with others. And serving them, in a life of obedience to God. Preferring our own excruciating death, daily, over imposing anything destructive on them (thanks to L.L. Barkat, for that insight, from a comment yesterday).

Entitlement complains about how the world is treating us Christians. This idea is from those who see America as a Christian nation at its outset. There was certainly formidable Christian influence then, though the Enlightenment influence was also strong (if not stronger). And Deism. And being a democracy, we believe we have certain rights, along with the expectations that come from electing officials.

We forget that Jesus told his disciples that "the world" is not in harmony with the kingdom of God come in Jesus. That this kingdom is from another place, and brings another message and reality. By which we're to help impact the reality and world in which we live. As we look forward to the day when this kingdom takes over, and is in full sway.

This is a kingdom in operation that looks like Jesus, in his emptying of himself into "nothing", in his being made a human, and being obedient to death, even the most cruel death of the cross. A humility in love that we are called to embrace together. A humility that has no sense at all of entitlement. But having, instead, a sense of obligation and a debt of love to our brothers and sisters in Jesus, and to all people. As we follow our Lord.

What thoughts do you have on this?


andre said...


Good thoughts for us Let me offer a perspective from our family devotions last night. We discussed how Jesus is first our Savior before he's our example.

Our motivation for Christian practice - forgiving when we're sinned against, loving others sacrificially, giving generously, etc.. comes from the fact that we have first received from Christ,his sacrificial love for us.

We were discussing how without the gospel in view, we can easily turn "imitating Christ" into fruitless works to earn God's favor.

Just wanted to share those thoughts!

L.L. Barkat said...

One could say that our only right is that granted based on the work of Jesus... access to the Father, sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. I mean "right" in the legal sense, sort of how Paul uses the legal metaphor in Romans.

This said, our right then becomes the right to do good and not evil!

Brother Maynard said...

Ted, good thoughts. My response is in the form of my own blog post and adds another permutation to the sense of entitlement... that of leaders feeling entitled to certain "perks" from the congregation.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Excellent post! In my teaching for the DTS last week on missional community, we ran up against this again and again. They have the RIGHT to a personal and private relationship with God. They have the RIGHT to decide if they want to step out of their comfort zone. And they do! What I tried to get them to see is that Jesus calls us to lay down our rights- never denying that they are there. Tough.


Ted Gossard said...

Andre, Thanks for that. Yes. We don't serve Christ to gain the favor he's already worked for us. But both in following his example, and in being enabled by the Spirit to follow the path together that he made (recapitulation, I believe, fits in here), we grow up in our salvation towards conformity to him in character and with reference to mission.

Ted Gossard said...

L.L., Yes. Very true. And to be like an overflow of our salvation. Our salvation in Jesus does overflow to others (John 7 and 10). And to do good. Wow. Exactly what Paul is talking about in Titus. Thanks.

Ted Gossard said...

Brother Maynard, Thanks much for the link. I have been blessed to be around leaders who lived sacrificially, and don't seem hit by this sense of entitlement. But I know that this is, sadly enough, a problem with some (even Paul said many peddled the Word of God for profit in his day). And really, we do need to see ways it may have crept in to our lives, without us knowing it. I know it easily does in mine.

Ted Gossard said...

Jamie, Thanks! And great point! Yes. Paul himself said he had a right to do this and that, but chose to give that up for the sake of the gospel. A close following of our Lord in that way, seemed to be his goal (Php 2,3). Though I don't see Peter as following our Lord less in his life, just because he had a wife (as Paul noted, that is a gift and calling- 1 Corinthians 7). I think it works out differently for different people, without thinking we know who follows the Lord more closely by what rights they give up....

Jesus does call us to lay down our lives, which certainly means everything is included.

Thanks for stimulating me to think on that.

Brother Maynard said...

Ted, thanks for bringing this up.

Picking up on Jamie's insightful comment, the whole idea of entitlement and "rights" is akin to the idea of "fairness." We protest that something isn't "fair" because we think we have a right to what we perceive as fair. One of the best perspectives I've heard on this (ironically from a pastor the the church I referenced above) was the statement, "If life were fair, you'd be in hell." Kinda stops you in your tracks...

Ted Gossard said...

Brother Maynard, Yes. That puts us all on the same ground, I believe. None of us merits a thing in ourselves. But we do deserve judgment, as the pastor put it.

However, I still see a sense of mystery going on. Why do some children have abusive experience growing up? And others do not? That really isn't fair, depending on what context you're looking at, I think. Of course in the big Story, God is at work. And many victims in a fallen world, have found faith and consolation in God. While many in good circumstances have pursued a life course that leads to death, as we know.

So I think we need to hold both perspectives. And look at each case. From the vantage point of seeing each person as a sheep that could enter through the gate, in Jesus.

Thanks again.

KM said...

Ah Ted. On target as usual.

Perhaps I'm showing my alien-ness again, but over here I've most often seen "entitlement" converted into a bizarre sort of religio-Americanism! :smile:

I guess I do feel "entitled" to total inclusion during corporate worship and fellowship, and thus feel a little shellshocked when I don't get it. Which makes me wonder: if we all did value others' interests, wouldn't that involve respecting their right to be as one with us as we are with each other? (How much sense did that make?)

Secondarily, I can see that Jesus asks us to receive with grace whatever He gives us -- not to be striving or grasping, but to be content. Yet isn't there a sort of paradox there too? He's God and King; this is our Father's world -- hasn't He promised to give us every good? Of course there's an extreme position (& I'm not going there), but what's wrong with acknowledging our nobility in Jesus as children of light? Nobility does come with obligations, as Paul's writings letters indicate. So if I am sure that God's going to look after me, that He's secured my future according to His infinite wisdom, and that I can talk to Him at any hour of the day or night, why shouldn't I walk out of my apartment head straight, proud to be His daughter, and happy that He's God? Even if I don't have great shoes, lol!

I'm reading Matthew again, and no matter what I do, I just can't see Jesus shuffling around Galilee. He knew who He was. He didn't hold it over anybody, which is the trick we get a lifetime to master, but He knew who He was.

Still thinkin',

Ted Gossard said...

KM, Thanks!

Yes. Your first point makes great sense as I understand it. I kind of get the idea that we're to be inclusive and take in people unconditionally, not only on our terms, but on theirs as well (of course in line with God's revealed will in Scripture).

Excellent point too, about what true humility for us in Jesus is. It includes a wonderful sense of who we are in Jesus. We are his brothers and sisters. And God is our Father. And this is a living reality in the Spirit. So that, like Jesus, we know who we are in God. That we're immensely loved. His handiwork in creation and in the new creation in Jesus.


Kim said...

Scripture does say it best:

"Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Gal 5:24

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me..."
Gal 2:20

What is a crucified man entitled to?

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself..."
Philippians 2:5-7

If Christ, who truly was entitled to claim His deity, did not grasp for it...why should I feel entitled to grasp for anything?

Ted Gossard said...

Kim, Well put, and good passages on this. Thanks.