Many of my friends were recently invited on an all-expenses-paid international trip. Great for them — but I was left out.
Of course, my first reaction was not to rejoice in their good fortune, or delight that they got to enjoy an incredible experience. Initially, my heart was jealous, hurt, and stinging under a sense of entitlement.
I’m in my mid-twenties, and my generation is notorious for our attitudes of entitlement. We think we deserve more than we do, and when we don’t get it, our entitlement siren starts blaring. And when it does, we often act irrationally — in a way that looks foolish from the outside.
So how can we recognize our own sense of entitlement, and take steps to surrender it to God? First, we need to understand what entitlement truly is.
From the Greatest to the Least
Entitlement is the belief that we inherently deserve privileges or special treatments, or that we have the right to something. Entitlement shows no partiality; it will reach for life’s greatest gifts and claim its smallest pleasures. When it comes to the big parts of life, we can find ourselves thinking along these lines:
- “I deserve to have children, so why am I struggling with infertility? After all, aren’t children a blessing from God?”
- “I’m tired of being single. I’ve remained pure and sought Christ, so why hasn’t he brought a spouse into my life?”
- “I’m such a hard worker. I don’t understand why I still can’t manage to find a high-paying job.”
But entitlement can also touch smaller issues:
- “I’m a good homemaker and work hard to keep the house clean and tidy. I deserve to have a nicer, bigger home.”
- “I work so hard to provide for my family. I deserve to watch TV when I come home.”
- “I’ve been good with my finances. I deserve to buy what I want for a change.”
Of course, as sinners, the only thing we deserve is God’s judgment. Therefore, we are not overstating matters when we say with John Piper, “A sense of deservedness or entitlement will keep us from knowing Christ.”
How to Fight Entitlement
If entitlement is so dangerous, and often so subtle, how can we fight it? I recommend three steps to move from a spirit of entitlement to a spirit of rest: diagnose your heart, remember your God, and imitate your Savior.
1. Diagnose Your Heart
The first step to letting go of entitlement is recognizing its presence in our hearts. To get there, we can ask ourselves questions that dig below the surface of our emotions. For example, we can ask ourselves questions like the following:
- In what areas of my life am I discontent?
- Why am I feeling so disappointed right now?
- What do I think I need in order to live an abundant life?
- How am I comparing my life to someone else’s life?
Once we’ve evaluated our own hearts and found the shadows of entitlement lurking, we do not stay there. Instead, we get outside ourselves and remember our God.
2. Remember Your God
In Psalm 23:1, David proclaims that the Lord is his shepherd, and he shall not want. How was David able to say this? Because he intimately knew the Good Shepherd’s heart. He knew that God promises to always love his children (Psalm 36:7). He knew that God would never leave him or forsake him (Psalm 139:7–12). He knew that God would always sustain him (Psalm 62:1–2). He knew that God was enough (Psalm 27:4). Because he knew all those things, he was able to fully trust that God would take care of him — even in “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4).
If God really is good, then we have everything we need for life and godliness. We can rest content in what he chooses to give, and what he chooses to withhold. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray and ask God for things. But it does mean that if he chooses to say, “No” or “Wait,” we can trust that his answers are good and loving.
Cling to the promise that God loves you, even when you don’t get what you desperately want. Use these feelings as a catalyst into prayer. We can’t save ourselves from these feelings of entitlement. We can’t make our hearts better. But God can, and he will do so as we pour out our desires and disappointments to him and hope in his promises.
3. Imitate Your Savior
Christ was the only one who’s ever been truly entitled. He didn’t deserve to bear our sins on the cross. Yet he chose to give up his own desires, his own comforts, and his own pleasures for our eternal good. Paul beautifully reminds us that Christ laid down his entitlements so that we might share in his glory (Philippians 2:5–8).
As Christians, we should not only trust God when we don’t get what we want. We should also follow the example of our Savior and choose to give up what we think we deserve. The reward might not be immediate, but we’ll become more like Christ, and that is always worth it.
Humility and the willingness to give up our rights are not prized virtues in our world, but they are stunningly beautiful to Christ.
Hearts at Rest
It’s a good thing we don’t get everything we want in this life. Those unfulfilled desires remind us of where our true satisfaction comes from: Christ and Christ alone. In the famous words of Augustine, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”
May we trade our entitlement for a restful spirit in Christ. May we take our restless, entitled hearts to the throne of grace and surrender them to our loving Father.