Self-Entitlement & the Church
I’m working my way through a Netflix science fiction series show called Stranger Things. It’s set in the 1980s and uses the backdrop of a rural Indiana town. While I’m not a fan of science fiction, the main characters are in their junior high and it’s entertaining to watch actions and words from that stage of life, especially from Indiana. The show is all things ‘80s—the cars, the clothes, the music, and more.
One of the characters, Will, who had his body invaded by a monster in season one, now has the ability to detect the dark presence when it is around. The evil invader is not in him anymore, but goosebumps appear on the back of his neck when the monster is around and up to no good.
Last week, I sort of experienced the same creepy thing. I felt an uneasiness around me, a chill from a monster I am well-acquainted with. No one else could see or detect it, but. I knew it was around me on that Sunday morning when the words spilled out of her mouth.
You see, every Sunday, we offer drinks and bread to our guests and coffee to our members. It’s part of being hospitable to strangers—and accountable to a budget.
Anyway, I saw someone I did not know head for our guest cart. Since I didn’t recognize her, I assumed she was new to our church. As she helped herself to lemonade, I asked if this was her first visit, and she said with a snarky smile, “Oh no, but I am a tithing member of this church and am entitled to some lemonade.” Pointing to our member’s area she added, “Besides, you put away the coffee down there.”
Did she not see the three large signs that read, “NEW HERE?” Does she not hear the weekly announcement about this guest area? It wasn’t that I didn’t have a response to her wild comment. I chose to hold my tongue, knowing that what I wanted to say probably would not be very godly.
Understand this: This lady is not a monster at all. The real monster, who we have to fight against personally and in the Church, is Entitlement.
If we belong to a local church—whether College Park or another—we tend to believe that everything in it is ours. Right? We are one large happy family that shares everything, right?
Doesn’t our hard-earned offering money, that pays the salaries of our pastors and staff, entitle us to their attention and help anytime when we want it? Our tithes pay for the furniture and supplies here. Doesn’t that entitle us to an all-access-pass to room space and resources at the church—including food and beverages?
Many times, people have approached me and said that they didn’t have time for breakfast on Sunday. They want me to feed them with food designated and budgeted for our guests. Of course, there is grace for pregnant moms, low blood sugar folk, kids, and the elderly. But on the whole, I have noticed an attitude of “I am entitled to that” among many churchgoers.
As I ponder what God’s Word about entitlement, I get a more creeped out than from I do during an episode of Stranger Things. Another set of goosebumps rise on the back of my neck because I remember that I do deserve and am entitled to something.
Because I have fallen and am short of the “A-okay” from God, I am entitled to the promised wages of sin, and that’s eternal separation from God, in Hell. All of us are entitled to that. Yikes!
A great eighteenth century preacher, Jonathan Edwards, once said this about our sad state as sinners:
The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this.—“There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”—By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty . . . (Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God)
When I sober up from my greedy thoughts about wanting food that is designated for a Sunday School class or a seat in the Sanctuary where I always sit, I repent. And after repenting from all the “I can have that because . . .”, I thank God that I will not get what I truly deserve.
God sent his Son, Jesus, who perished upon a cross from a punishment that you and I deserve. We couldn’t measure up to God’s standard of perfection.
When we believed that Jesus was and is our only way to be freed from slavery to death and ourselves, we were saved. Jesus exchanged our hell-bound destination for one with a thirst quenching, satisfying life with him, now and forever. We as Christ followers receive grace upon grace lavished on us by his great mercy and love.
We’re different people than those who are still hell-bound. We are not perfect, but we are changed into people who live for Christ. We live to give, not to take.
So, when the ugly monster named Entitlement attempts to sway you and indulge your selfish thoughts and actions, you have the power to say no. Say it and walk away! Be grateful we don’t get what we truly deserve.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,nor repay us according to our iniquities (Ps 103:10).