I have a confession to make. I struggle with entitlement.
Entitlement? The definition might as well be “Americans.” It’s the attitude of deserving—I deserve to live in an expensive house, go to a private college, make $70,000 right out of school, send my food back at a restaurant if I don’t “like” it, sue someone for no reason at all, and … you get the point. This attitude almost doesn’t exist in the rest of the world.
I remember when the Chinese government shut off my power and water. Oh boy. They didn’t a.) notify me, or b.) tell me when I might be able to expect heat, light and water, or c.) compensate me in some way. I was f-u-r-i-o-u-s. I stomped around Kunming and demanded (in extra loud Chinese) that SOMEONE tell me what was going on. I shared my sob story about how I was sweaty from my run, had wet hair sticking to my head, and had PLACES TO BE. I was “that American,” oh yes. I burst into tears after a guy sitting behind a desk at the electric company chuckled through the thick smoke coming from his cigarette and said, “Foreigners.”
What happens when our sense of entitlement meets God? Does God ever owe us? Do we deserve certain things in this life?
When I moved to China in 2008, nothing turned out as I expected. Within a few months, our team dissolved, accusations were flying right and left, and I left the missions organization. The details are not important, but I learned something very powerful that (excruciating) year. I saw in myself a roaring monster—I believed God owed me. I moved across the globe to CHINA, gave up a career (and a husband—I thought) and told everyone from old ladies to little kids about the man who came to die for them. Look how much I sacrificed for God! Didn’t I deserve a good team? A good experience? Why did it feel like I was sacrificing for Him and life was just getting harder?
As Christians, we’ve heard a lot of false teaching. It’s easy to listen to certain preachers and believe God owes us: health and wealth, a spouse, a promotion, a good job, a “problem free” family, or even the bigger things—life without abuse, a dad who isn’t an alcoholic, kids who don’t bring disgrace, a husband who doesn’t leave … and the list goes on.
The Bible says all who live for Christ will suffer (2 Tim. 3:12). John the Baptist could have looked up to the heavens from his jail cell and asked, “Don’t I deserve to be rescued? I preached the Gospel and lived in the wilderness and baptized Jesus.” But he was never rescued. He was beheaded in the hands of a cruel, godless king.
Paul could have made similar demands: “I preached the Gospel all over the world. Wrote most of the New Testament. Suffered imprisonment and more. Don’t I deserve to die in peace?” But he was brutally crucified. Jesus—He could have demanded an “easier death” or even not to feel the pain. But He suffered greatly as He hung on the cross and His Father poured out the sins of the world on His dying body.
The Bible also says that God doesn’t treat us as we deserve to be treated. He does not treat us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10) and what we deserve is death—without eternal life (Romans 6:23). God spoke powerfully to me that year in China. One morning, I sat crying on my porch asking God what I did to deserve the false accusations and broken team. It felt like He was punishing me. His answer came in a still small voice, over the noise of the city below:
“My child. You don’t deserve anything. Yet, I have given you everything.”
Even when your life is wracked with pain and disappointment and confusion and heartache—when storms blow hard against your faith—remember this: God has given you everything in the person of His Son. Transcending hope of eternal life. He loves you with a love so deep and so powerful, He sent His Son to the Cross. For you.
Do you struggle with a sense of entitlement towards God? What do you feel God owes you?