Imagine with me the morning commute. Traffic is really bad… like always. You change lanes and it seems like the volume of traffic follows you. With every passing minute you get more and more frustrated…
Imagine with me a day at work like any other day. Your job is a job, and you work hard and with integrity in what you do. But you’ve been there for 2 or 3 years, and the promotions just haven’t come. You look at your skill set in comparison to your daily tasks and feel a similar frustration…
Imagine with me an out of town trip. One in which you had to fly to get to your destination. You’re sitting at the airport, waiting to come home, and look up at the big board only to find that single dreaded word: “Delayed.” Sure, you know there’s a blizzard going on, but the anger starts to rise deeply within you and you start to look around for someone with a badge who is going to get it…
What do these three situations have in common?
At least to some degree, it’s entitlement. We live in a consumer driven culture, and because we do, most of the time we bring a preconceived notion to a given situation that we deserve more. We deserve better. We deserve something different than what is presented before us, whether it means a lane of traffic all to ourselves, an unbroken travel schedule, or regular promotions at the office.
That’s not to say that there are some occasions in which we are mistreated – when we don’t get what we deserve. But I do feel safe in saying that these situations are few and far between. Much more often is the case that we mask our entitlement with an overinflated sense of justice and as a result live with a seething frustration that comes out much more often than we’d like.
For the Christian, we should know what we are truly entitled to: hell.
That’s the wages of our sin – it’s eternal death and separation from God. This, and this alone, is what we truly deserve. And yet we boil over in traffic because of the person who has somehow forgotten that the left lane is for the really important people who have really important things to do at really important places. The answer for our sense of entitlement, one of the many things we must stand against as disciples of Jesus, is faith.
When we are trapped by those feelings of frustration stemming from our own ego, the escape hatch we must cling to is faith. To that end, we see a powerful example in the life of Abram.
When we come to Genesis 13, we see that Abram, having been called by God to leave the familiar and launch by faith into the unknown, has become rich. Very rich. Within his gigantic traveling caravan was his nephew Lot. Between them, they had so much stuff, so much livestock, so many people, that the land could not support them any more. There was as a result fighting between the herdsmen. So Abram came to the table with a solution:
Then Abram said to Lot, “Please, let’s not have quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, since we are relatives. Isn’t the whole land before you? Separate from me: if you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right, I will go to the left.”
Lot looked out and saw that the entire Jordan Valley as far as Zoar was well watered everywhere like the Lord’s garden and the land of Egypt. This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. So Lot chose the entire Jordan Valley for himself. Then Lot journeyed eastward, and they separated from each other. Abram lived in the land of Canaan, but Lot lived in the cities of the valley and set up his tent near Sodom (Genesis 13:8-12).
The solution was simple: to divide. But here’s how the division should have gone down. Abram, as the patriarch, should have taken the best land leaving what was left for anyone else. And even if Abram extended the invitation to Lot, the younger should have respectfully chosen what was clearly less in resource out of respect for the older. But that’s not what happened.
Lot chose the better… or at least what his eyes told him was better, leaving the leftovers for Abram.
Abram, who was actually entitled to more, was somehow able to defer what he was entitled to. He was able to do what we so rarely do. And how was he able to hit the eject button on his sense of entitlement?
Abram was confident enough in God’s provision that he was able to lay down his entitlement and trust the Lord with the outcome. And that’s really the thing at the heart of all our entitlement issues, isn’t it? Isn’t it whether we really trust the Lord to give us what we need? Isn’t whether we really believe He is good enough and wise enough to provide? And isn’t that when we feel so entitled to something more than what we are experiencing that we are actually calling into question the very wisdom and power of God on our behalf?
Of course it is. Uncomfortably and absolutely it is.
What does the husband do when he feels entitled to a more exciting marriage than he currently has? He trusts.
What does the college graduate do when she believes she should have a better opening salary than the one in front of her? She trusts.
What do we all do when we feel the impulse inside of us that says we deserve more and better? We trust. Again and again. And when we do, we fix our eyes on Jesus, who knew full well what He was entitled to, and yet laid it all down because He trusted the wisdom, timing, and power of the Father.