Repudiating entitlement

Repudiating entitlement November 28, 2012

Entitlement is really another word for pride. It simply means “I deserve better.” There is almost no other common sin that is so universally disliked in others when it is encountered yet so readily nurtured in ourselves.

Our modern notion of human rights encourages this. It is all about me and my needs. Not about meeting my responsibilities. When we speak of religious freedom very rarely will a Christian really be talking about say the freedom of muslims to build a Mosque. Nor will a feminist often campaign for the maintenance of the right for Jews Muslims and Christians not to be forced to perform abortions on demand if their faith tells them it’s murder.

But entitlement is so ubiquitous it even stains our relationship with God. If we are “good Christians” we secretly think God owes us a good life on our terms! Some of us even dare to get angry with God when things don’t go the way we hoped.

The Christian needs to be often reminded of grace. Until we realise just how undeserving we are we will never fully appreciate the wonderful grace God has given us. This morning I read in Genesis 32 Jacob’s prayer.

“I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.”

Knowing what we do about Jacob it’s easy to say “you’re not wrong there!” But the truth is you and I are not worthy either. If we could get that into our heads we would be a bit more grateful for Gods bountiful blessings and a lot more content!

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  • Dorfl

    “Nor will a feminist often campaign for the maintenance of the right for Jews, Muslims and Christians not to be forced to perform abortions on demand if their faith tells them it’s murder.”

    You might want to work a bit on your sense of timing for this sort of thing. I understand that abortion is an important matter to you, but I think it would have been decent not to bring it up quite this soon after a woman was killed by Christian doctors’ using their right not to their job.

    • That case was why I clearly wrote “on demand” there. I strongly disagree with any catholic doctor who refuses to intervene to save the life of a mother. I don’t even call that abortion at all. It’s simply saving one life when it’s not possible to save both. I’ve been thinking about writing a blog post about that case as it shocked me massively as a doctor who exercised my right to conscientiously object to performing abortion in other circumstances.

      • Dorfl

        If you have the time, please do. I’d very much like to hear your views on it.

  • Sue

    Some people legitimately experience a lack of basic human rights. Sometimes it is easy for those who have basic human rights to preach to those who don’t have basic human rights.

  • As something of a balance to this, surely we do have rights, and entitlement to claim those rights, granted by the state and in part in exchange for the taxes we pay. This is biblical: Paul at least twice claimed his right as a Roman citizen to a fair trial. Even Jesus in his trial made use of his right to silence. But I agree that as Christians we should rely on our rights only sparingly, and not claim entitlement to things we do not deserve or really need.

  • Craig

    Think awhile on the vice of servility, and read up on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and then re-write this piece.

  • Rick

    Actually, our modern notion of human rights springs from the nutty idea that people shouldn’t be tortured, abused, exterminated or enslaved. I hardly think that our pleas for North Korean prisoners to be treated humanely is going to lead to those same prisoners becoming entitled jerks.

    • I’m not against the ideals expressed in the UN declaration! I would just express them differently eg “because of the inherent value of all human beings we have a duty to protect them from harm and not abuse kill or otherwise mistreat them”. Hope that makes sense? My problem is not so much with the intended consequences of such statements as the notion that we internalise. I’ve heard people speak of having the “right” to cable TV. And I know I am often tempted to think I have the “right” for people to treat me better than they do.

      If the world was full of people looking to serve others and treat them as more important than themselves it would be a better place!

      • Craig

        Adrian, I bet you’re not listening carefully. When someone says that they have a right to cable TV, are they claiming that this is a human right? Probably not (if they are, then we can agree-that’s stupid). But what would you say if you signed a contract with the cable company and payed the bill. Don’t you have a right to that service?

        Time to get your nose out of fundamentalist theology and culture war lit. Get your hand on some good texts of contemporary moral and political philosophy. Let me know if you need recommendations.

  • Pride ensnares us so easily. We live in a society where everything is all about me and what I want, when I want it, how I want it and why I want it. No where in any of that is God even brought into the equation. If the enemy can get us to focus on ourselves and not God, we have lost focus on where we come from. God created us and everything we have and everything we are is because of His grace. If we truly grasped that, we would spend a lot more time on our knees humbling thanking the One who deserves the honor and glory.

  • Sue

    One thing I would really like to see is some discussion of which human rights women have access to in marriage. I am quite serious about this so please hear me out.

    Some women make a vow to obey their husband, without any restrictions on this. So they surrender all human rights. This is also encouraged by many women’s ministries, that women surrender entitlement to human rights.

    So, my question is whether women can do any of the following without permission from their husband –

    1) Vote for their own choice of candidate
    2) Work outside the home
    3) Leave and enter the house
    4) Go to a psychologist or counsellor
    5) Express political and theological opinions
    6) Use birth control

    Or do you think that women have the same human rights as men?

    • Of course women have all human rights including the ones you mentioned

      • Sue

        Thank you very much for saying that. I was denied most of the above for 30 years, because I had vowed to obey. I lived without all those rights, and it makes me very sad when somebody who has had all those rights preaches that we should repudiate our rights. In my entire life, I have never heard a sermon which told husbands that women had basic human rights. All I ever heard were sermons on loving your wife, and on the wife submitting. This was, in my context, always interpreted as the wife being told who to vote for, and having to ask permission to do anything at all. Sometimes permission was given, sometimes not.

        Truly, I hear so much about submission of women, but nobody addresses the real problem, which is women living without any of the rights that I mentioned. I have never heard even on minister who spoke about this issue.

  • Sue

    I just feel profoundly sad now. I feel as if I was taken in for all those years, thinking I had to obey, and now you say that of course, I had all those rights myself. I didn’t even know that. Christian women need someone to go to them as a missionary, and tell them that they have basic human rights.