Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, had a near fall:
Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold (Psalm 73:1-2).
Of course, the fall here was metaphorical. He was on the edge of despair. The edge of anxiety. The edge of unbelief. And the thing that pushed him to the edge was an issue of allocation. Asaph was not struggling with the age old question of why do bad things happen to good people; he was struggling with the question of why good things seem to happen to bad people. But more so, he was struggling with the issue of entitlement:
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:3).
It wasn’t just a hypothetical question of why the wicked seem to prosper; rather, it was the sense that he, in his righteous and clean living, wasn’t getting what others were. And surely we can relate to that.
Surely we, too, look around at times and start to play the comparison. Surely we also wonder why someone who is less holy, less righteous, less upstanding than we are seem to be getting the blessings that we feel are rightfully ours. We know what it feels like to be entitled. But do we know the true destructive nature of entitlement? Perhaps not. Here, then, are four reasons why entitlement is so destructive:
1. Entitlement is a denial of the truth.
At a base level, we don’t actually want what we deserve. And if we claim to want what we deserve, what we are really betraying about ourselves is that we have failed to fully grasp the true nature of sin and the human heart. Because what we really deserve – each and everyone of us – is hell. This is the payment we deserve for our sin – for our offenses against a holy God. Thank God that we don’t get what we deserve! Living with a sense of entitlement, then, is living outside of the light of this truth. And once we begin to deny that truth – once we begin to convince ourselves that we were not actually dead in our sins and transgressions, that we were actually not alienated and separated from God, that we were actually not helpless and in need of rescue, then a multitude of other false ways of thinking follow.
2. Entitlement is destructive is that it robs us of gratitude.
Gratitude ought to be a way of life for us as a Christian. We are not the people who occasionally say “thank you,” but we are the people who rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say, rejoice! When you live in a posture of gratitude, you are also living in a posture of humility because gratitude is a recognition that we are constantly on the receiving end. This is, in fact, one of the ways we can actually and actively pursue humility – it’s through the choice to be grateful because we are forcing ourselves to remember the opposite of what entitlement tells us – that we are receiving something because of the grace and generosity of someone else. When we live with a sense of entitlement, it is impossible for us to also live with a sense of gratitude because we are always expecting more.
3. Entitlement destroys our relationships.
Paul would later write a list of commands in Romans 12, one of which reads like this: Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. But for a person of entitlement, those are two very hard things to do. It’s very hard to rejoice with someone when you are comparing what you have to what they have because inevitably you will drift into the belief that you ought to have what they do. Similarly, one can’t weep alongside others when they are filled with entitlement because the entitled person sits in judgment over those who suffer, judging them because of the choices they think led the person to the situation they are in.
4. Entitlement is destructive because it ultimately puts us in the place of God.
When we look at the way portions are being dealt out and sit in judgment over it, what we are really doing – although it might be subtle – is calling into question the wisdom of God. We are saying, with our attitudes, that we know much better how these portions should be allocated. We are, in other words, more wise, more fair, and more equitable than God Himself.
In light of those things, no wonder Asaph the psalmist said his foot had almost slipped. No wonder he saw the precipice opening up before him. And yet, by God’s grace, he was able to move back from the edge. So what was the solution to this issue?
It was not that he made more money. Or got nicer things. Or even that he saw the wicked around him robbed of all the health and prosperity that he had. The solution only came when the psalmist entered God’s sanctuary. And what did he find as he drew near to God? He found a God bigger than himself. A God bigger than his understanding. He found eternity. Eternity was the way he was able to reckon with the seemingly unjust blessing and prosperity of the wicked, for eternity waits for us all and judgment with it. When you accept eternity as a reality, you begin to place lesser and lesser importance on what is happening in the actual here and now. So in light of eternity, he saw that there is indeed a reckoning for the wicked.
But he also found something else, and the something else is what truly banished his sense of entitlement – and ours. He found that the Lord is our portion:
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26).
Entitlement is banished when the Lord is your portion. Consider, for a moment, just how exhausting it is to live with that sense of entitlement. You are constantly evaluating others. You are always dissatisfied with who and what you have. You long, incessantly, for more. Your relationships are strained to the point of breaking. Indeed, it is nearly impossible for you to enjoy any part of life because you are on the treadmill of chasing the ever elusive “else.” Until, that is, you realize what Christ has bought for you at the cross.
Has he bought for you money? Power? Material blessings? No – none of that – none of those things that moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. He has bought for us something better – He has bought for us God Himself as our portion. And with that, with God as our portion, we can rest. Not because we have learned to settle for what little we have, but because in light of eternity, we realize there is nothing else.
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