Entitlement

Luke 7:1-10 English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant

After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him.When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.

We are in an entitlement crisis. Entitlement is defined among other things as a belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges. The Romans had entitlement issues: they ruled the known world but became lazy and “entitled” and lost it all to barbarian hordes. The Jews had entitlement issues: They believed that the Messiah was theirs. He was coming  just for them.

From entitlement grows the belief that we have a right to decide what the subject of entitlement should be.  The Jews felt they had the right to decide what the Messiah would be. For many, in fact, they expected him to be the salvation from men like the Centurion and the Roman rule. Moving from a Blessed Nation, the cult of entitlement moved Israel into missing the Messiah and being dispersed into the world.

America is another example of a society that has gone from being blessed to being entitled. Americans now seem to believe they have a RIGHT to things that they have enjoyed as blessings: healthcare, education,  life long security from invaders and terrorists. It has made us selfish and entitled. When we say we need to secure the borders do we mean that we need to keep out the dangerous or just keep out those who are not like us. Those we feel don’t deserve to share all that we have, all that we are entitled to.

We are hearing cries to “Deport all the muslims” or worse  “Kill all the Muslims.” Certainly in the old testament, God often told the Israelites to eliminate their enemies. Such extermination was necessary to keep the chosen people pure.  Old testament solutions have given way  to a new testament cure. We now have the weapon of God’s loving grace to deal with a world that hates us. God and his grace is no longer limited to a chosen people. God so loved the world.

Christians are not immune to Entitlement thinking. We confuse blessings with rights. Do we have a right to risk-free worship, comfortable practice of our faith, a nice home and a  disease free life? You might think so if you hang around with American Christians. You wouldn’t suffer from that confusion if you were familiar with Christ followers in China or Iraq or Syria. Just because God has blessed us with freedoms and comforts, doesn’t mean we are entitled to them. We should appreciate what we have been given and not expect these blessings as a matter of right.

The Centurion, a man steeped in entitlement learned that eventually we face situations that challenge our sense of entitlement.  He faced circumstances he couldn’t control. A blessing in his life that he couldn’t keep through any act of his. He had a beloved servant who was suffering. He heard that Jesus had the power to heal. He wasn’t entitled to that blessing. He knew Jesus was a local, a jew whom he could not control. He would have to rely on the kindness of the healer to get what he needed. He recognized that if Jesus chose to cure his servant, it will be a blessing.

Entitlement is a deception from Satan designed to take our focus off the giver and unto the gifts, to move us from appreciation to expectation, from blessed to entitled. We have to acknowledge that as Americans, Christians, Parents, Grand Parents,  we feel entitled and are training the next generations to be even more so. In doing so we are cheating ourselves and them of a sense of awe, thanksgiving and joy. We are setting ourselves up for devastation when something comes along that challenges our sense of entitlement.

We need to look around and count the good things in our lives. We need to recognize that we have much that others lack. We have these blessings from the hand of a loving God. That hand can remove them, and will remove them, if what starts as a blessing ends up as a blockage to the relationship from which it sprung.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11. Sometimes we imperfect men give gifts that aren’t so good. They may be things we never got. They may be appreciated by the recipient. That doesn’t make them good. God doesn’t have that problem. He gives what’s best for us, whether we understand or appreciate it. When a blessing becomes perceived as an entitlement, it’s not longer good and we can’t expect it to stay for long.

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