We all struggle. People who go to church on Saturday or Sunday or four times a year on major holidays–they all struggle. People raised in the church and those who’ve never held a Bible will struggle. I think we all wonder why.
We blame our illnesses, financial disaster, and unwelcome life changes on ourselves. I’m sick because of the dark period when I was drinking and promiscuous. I lost my job because of the time I stole from petty cash in college. My kid has an illness because I made a poor choice, did a bad thing, didn’t love enough, didn’t do enough, be enough…
These examples are fiction, but in some ways big and small, a Christian you know is likely thinking just that. When we don’t understand our circumstances, we find a place to put the blame, and it’s usually in the mirror.
The only thing worse than blaming yourself for all the bad stuff in life is expecting that just because you’re a Christian you deserve all the good in life.
The only thing God promised us in this life was a new life in Heaven. He didn’t promise there wouldn’t be struggles. In fact, Jesus struggled. His disciples struggled. His Word even says there will be a time of great struggle called “The Great Tribulation.” It’s literally in the plan outlined in scripture, yet we’re surprised when we ourselves struggle. We’re surprised when we don’t have it all. We’re upset when our Christian stamp and denominational membership card doesn’t give us access to all of the awesome things in life. If we’re good, we should get it all, right?
The Problem with Having it All
When Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother was ill, they wanted Him to come. They expected Him to come. They knew He would keep their brother alive if He had been there (John 11:21), but He didn’t come. Didn’t they deserve His attention? Didn’t they deserve this miracle? After all, this was not the first time Jesus visited Bethany. He loved this family–Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. He probably stopped in for dinners and fellowship whenever He was nearby, but He still didn’t come. When He decides to stay two more days before going to His friends, even His disciples are surprised and confused by His response. When Jesus arrives four days after Lazarus’ death, even the Jewish belief that the body lingers three days after death couldn’t bring Lazarus back. When Jesus is met with the sisters, they are disappointed and honest about it. As you may know, John tells the rest of the story which climaxes with Lazarus walking from the grave at Jesus’ command, all for the glory of God. It wouldn’t be until later that Jesus returns to their home in Bethany for the Passover and Mary washes Jesus’ feet, anointing Him with oil before His capture and crucifixion.
Had Mary and Martha not endured such disappointment in their brother’s death, would they have gotten such a blessing in the end? Had Jesus not had the opportunity to raise Lazarus from his death, would the chief priests and Pharisees had begun the plot to kill Him? Is it true that our Lazarus is keeping us from a blessing and revelation of God’s glory?
I’m a good person, I shouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck when that guy has it all.
I’ve always done everything right, it is unfair for me to have this illness.
I give to the poor and volunteer with charities, I didn’t deserve to be laid off!
The problem with having it all is that we miss out on having less. The problem with wanting it all is that we miss out on what we have.
I saw Christian entitlement alive and well in a recent leadership meeting in a local church. The congregants had been disappointed and hurt by a recent pastoral leader. Their outcry was not heeded and they became equally disappointed in the conference leadership. They thought we pay tithe and you don’t listen or send help. Let’s see what will happen when we withhold our tithe!
I see Christian entitlement at board meetings when one person feels entitled to more votes than the others because they pay for a project, volunteer for a work bee, or cling to a tradition that they’re personally invested in. It slows down the work of the church and causes animosity between God’s hands and feet (the people).
I see Christian entitlement when a person that had a very public affair and ugly divorce is judged and distanced from others when he seems to have it all later. I see it with Christian women who cannot get pregnant and unwed youth continue to have children. I see it with struggling business owners who are forced to close Christian and family-run businesses and worldly entrepreneurs excel in business and in wealth.
At its cored, an entitlement mentality is solely self-focused.
If you feel entitled because you are a Christian, I want to encourage you to evaluate where you are placing the blame in your life and how this mentality of blame and self-exaltation may be affecting your Christian walk.
This article by Thom S. Rainer outlines 6 negative consequences of Christian entitlement in the church. Since these are all church-focused, I’d assert there are far more negative consequences to the spiritual, family, and personal life of the believer.
What do you think? In this age of entitlement, how has Christian entitlement played a part in your walk of faith?
Post your response using the hashtags #TuesdayTalk and #ChristianEntitlement