Do you believe that you deserve the best?
I got an email recently from a Christian brother. It was mainly about greed, but one other word in that email seemed to stand out: entitlement. It’s everywhere, isn’t it? How many times have we heard, “You can do better,” or “You deserve to be happy”? How many times have you walked away from church with a frown because the pastor did not acknowledge you? How many times have you felt bitter during a function because your presence was not announced, no front seat was reserved for you, and you were not invited to say what my people call mawili, matatu, machache? Alright, I see you frontin’. Let me bring it closer home: have you ever gotten upset because that deep thing you said did not get enough Likes and Shares, that celebrity did not respond to your Tweet, or there was no parking spot next to the entrance of a building?
Aren’t we just a grouchy, ungrateful bunch sometimes? We pray, and if something doesn’t happen our way, on our time, we begin to sulk. Or, we pray, and we get the answer when we hope we will, but it’s not our way, so we fuss. Or, we pray, get the answer our way, on “our” time, but we look for something to grumble about, and then enlarge that one thing to the point that the gift or answer no longer seems appealing. *Confession: Experience speaking here.* Adam and Eve had a whole garden to themselves, and could eat any single type of fruit except the fruit from one tree! Guess what fruit the devil talked Eve into eating – that very one that was forbidden!
We remember the fish, said the Israelites, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, besides this manna, before our eyes. Shocking! After demonstrating His power through ten plagues that included water turning to blood, lice and incurable boils, and darkness, God rescued the Israelites from brutal slavery in Egypt and carried them out with lots of gold. He miraculously parted the Red Sea so they would cross it, drowned the Egyptians who were pursuing them, and then gave them what David later called angels’ food. But here they were, not too long after, complaining about the very Egypt they cried to leave. “This manna is not the business,” is what they pretty much said. “Egypt was bad, but at least we had spices and condiments…” In fact, the very word manna means “[Alright, for real Lord…] What is this?”
Entitlement is such a common phenomenon today, and the sad thing is that it is natural even among those of us who call ourselves children of God. We have forgotten that we actually do not deserve the best. We have forgotten that God does not owe us. That’s what grace is about. While we were yet sinners – while we least deserved it – Christ died for us. Every good and perfect gift – every single one – comes from above, from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning. A man can receive only what is given to him from heaven. We have nothing that we did not receive from God.
Someone was kind enough to point out that a large part of the word entitlement is TITLE. We tell ourselves we deserve things because of the roles we play in society and in people’s lives. “How dare he not do that for me? I’m his sister!” someone might ask. “How dare they lay out nusu kapeti for a whole senior government official?” … “I’m a graduate – those jobs had better open up.”
I’m thinking about my life today, and I realize that there are many blessings I took for granted because I felt entitled to them. God has lavishly poured His love on me by sending people into my life, answering difficult prayers and working out problems that were otherwise insoluble. I have been guilty of the sin of entitlement. I have expected things to go a certain way, and sulked when they seemed even slightly off the mark.
Think about it. Do we deserve wonderful friends, beautiful children, good homes, working marriages, well-paying jobs, health and strength, peace and a vibrant economy? Are we entitled to respect and accolades for doing things that God has commanded us to do? Is anger at God ever justified?
Grace is grace because we don’t deserve it. We’re not entitled to it. We’re not worthy of it. And when we truly understand this truth, we will we be able to look at the blessings in our lives and give credit to Whom it is due – the Lord alone. We will be able to serve and forgive and share. We will be able to extend that same grace to others who, in our narrow-minded, myopic, minutial hypotheses, are unworthy of our time and affection. It’s easier to stop and smell the roses when you remember that there actually could have been no roses to smell and/or no nose to smell them in the first place.
It’s food for thought, isn’t it? Prostrate before the King Who causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the just and the unjust.
You do not deserve the best, but God gives it to you anyway.
Ba dum, tss!
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