Entitlement. The word is splashed across social media, the news, talk shows, and even books.
An entitlement mentality says, “You owe me.” It demands that you do something for me. Treat me special or unique—just because. And yet I have no particular responsibility in return. Tragically, this entitlement mentality has spread even into the church.
According to Dr. John Townsend, bestselling author and psychologist of the recently released book The Entitlement Cure, “We live in a culture that says, ‘Life should be easy and work well.’ This attitude manipulates the way important institutions — family, business, church, and government — behave. Its devastating effects contribute to relational problems, work-ethic issues, and emotional struggles. People are not getting to where they want to go because they don’t know how to do life the hard way,” Townsend declares. Entitlement keeps them from tackling challenges and finding success.”
“Wants have been transformed into “rights” in America and ultimately into obligations and entitlements.” Charles Skyes
I’m not going to tackle the issues of the politics or social policies in this article. But I DO want to talk about how the entitlement mentality is demonstrated in the church.
I have spoken to missionary friends throughout the years that have highlighted this for me. One couple has watched close friends jailed for attending Bible study. Others spent years witnessing to people in living conditions where daily meals and clean water are luxuries. When they returned to the States, the missionaries were shocked at the little value Christians place on their freedom. The American attitude of what they “should” have was disheartening when they recalled those who truly lived in poverty.
“Here’s the sad thing. Although we saw poverty at its greatest in the third world countries, we see spiritual poverty at its greatest in the world’s richest country,” one missionary said.
Has entitlement brought us to spiritual poverty within the Western church?
The entitlement mentality rears its ugly head within the church when we believe:
- It’s All About Me!
- I don’t need to work at spiritual growth regularly.
Thinking this way leads to other selfish thoughts such as,
- How can I get God to do what I want?
- What good will this Bible study (service, event) do for me?
- I don’t like the music here. I’m staying home.
- Why does the pastor always “nag” at us?
Church attendance is not a “suggestion”, It’s God’s will for believers (Hebrews 10:25). When a person gives his/her life to Jesus Christ, he becomes part of the body of Christ—the church (1 Corinthians 12:27). For a church body to be healthy, all it’s “parts” must be present and working (1 Corinthians 12:14-20). This takes discipline. Daily prayer and scripture reading takes discipline. Being loving when others are not, takes discipline. And yet having an entitlement mindset bucks discipline.
Having an attitude of entitlement underminds a foundational mission of God’s church—loving service to God, His church, and our neighbor.
We have a serious problem when we begin to think that God “owes” us.
During this monumental election season, I’m reminded of the famous quote by John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
Perhaps as Christ followers, we should be asking less of, “What can God do for me? What can the church do for me? What can others do for me? What can the government do for me?”
Instead, I wonder what would happen if you and I asked more of, “What can I do for God, my country, and my neighbor?”
What are your thoughts?