I’ve seen it all my life – people who think, assume, or pretend they are entitled. The dictionary defines entitlement as “the state or condition of being entitled; a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract or the belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.”
After forty years in ministry, I’ve seen my share of preachers and laity who believe they deserve or are entitled to certain privileges. It’s the “green room mentality” of the current celebrities in Christianity. It’s the demands for certain types of water, snacks, and amenities if I come to your church. It’s the unwillingness to stay around after a service and talk to people as if we are “all that.”
If you ever change anything that has been done more than once in a church, you’ll find out who feels entitled. Change the teacher of a class and you’ll find out if the teacher or the class feels entitled. Any evidence of change will cause the spirit of entitlement to raise its ugly head.
The Pharisees believed they were entitled. They were better than the law and could make up their own laws. They felt they were better than publicans and sinners. They paraded, postured, and strutted the streets of Jerusalem thinking they were the cream of God’s crop.
Ruling political parties think they are entitled. Many excuse their behavior, play by a different set of rules, and ignore the common man, all the while padding their pockets with money from lobbyists and political interest groups.
Tragically, there are church members who feel entitled. The subtle temptation of “I’ve been here a long time and I deserve better…” is a common expression of carnality in a local church. I remember a men’s Sunday School class in a church I served in Spartanburg. The men had been meeting so long (it was a closed group, new members weren’t welcome or wanted) that they bought the old church seats and bolted them to the floor. One day we moved their class to another room. They called the local media, threatened to boycott outside the church on Sunday morning, and threatened to take the pulpit during the service. Needless to say, I don’t think I’ll be seeing those men in glory one day.
It’s rampant in a carnal church. This is my church, my class, my choir, my seat, my parking space. The refusal to adjust, change, or adapt is repulsive to the Spirit of God. When HIS church becomes MY church, the Spirit leaves and you can write “Ichabod” on the front door.
What’s the cure? Humility. Humility is a hard pill to swallow for some folks. They are proud of their false humility. They absorb any compliment thrown their way like a dry sponge on a water spill. They imagine that the church will fold when they are no longer teaching, no longer on staff, no longer the featured soloist, no longer on the key committees. Oswald Chambers noted, “There is nothing more awful than conscious humility; it is the most satanic type of pride.”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “If our humility is not unconscious it is exhibitionism.” Charles Spurgeon said, “If any man tells me that he is humble, I know him to be profoundly proud.”
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, a group so proud that they didn’t confront sin, they mocked the sacredness of the Lord’s table, and they applauded immorality. They thought they were better than the Apostle Paul. Now that’s arrogance! And picking their favorite preachers to listen to was a form of entitlement. Apparently, they picked which Sundays they would go to church based on who was preaching that day.
If you ever want to know why God used the Apostle Paul, just read his response to the First Baptist Church of Entitlement in Corinth, “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
Paul didn’t come to Corinth to start a fan club or a following. He came to glorify the living God. Paul didn’t brag about how wise he was. As Warren Wiersbe says, “The itinerant philosophers and teachers depended on their wisdom and eloquence to gain followers. The city of Corinth was filled with such ‘spellbinders.’ Paul did not depend on eloquent speech or clever arguments; he simply declared God’s Word in the power of the Spirit. He was an ambassador, not a ‘Christian salesman.’”
Those who feel entitled exalt themselves. They make you feel they are indispensable. They hide any view of Christ behind their facades, false humility, and comments to their supporters to make sure they support them in the proper way.
Vance Havner used to tell the story of a church that had the American and Christian flags on the platform. The flags blocked the stained glass window of Jesus in the baptistery. A little boy asked his mom, “Why are the flags keeping us from seeing Jesus?”
The next time you expect royal treatment, check your ego at the door. The next time you find yourself looking in the mirror and thinking you are God’s gift to the church, remember that His church has done quite well without a lot of people more well-known than you. The next time you get huffy because someone took your seat or your parking space or asked you to do something you don’t normally do, remember, you aren’t entitled. The entitled person is neither dead to self nor dead in Christ. They are alive to their flesh and a carnal character that keeps people from seeing Jesus.
I’m sure this blog is a waste of time. After all, those who feel entitled won’t read it because their names aren’t in it, and they aren’t being applauded or rewarded for all the great things they’ve done.
Dying to self is tough. But, it’s the only way to really live.