The Entitlement Mentality

Minimum Wage

Our society has developed what is often called an “entitlement mentality” – particularly among the young, but it is still widespread through all ages. Those with this attitude believe that because they exist, they are entitled to certain things (standard of living, happiness, interpretation of truth, etc.).

The Israelites adopted this mindset while they were in Egypt. Despite their sufferings, they became accustomed to what they enjoyed there. While they were enslaved, they “cried out” to God “for help because of their bondage” (Exodus 2:23). After a series of plagues, God delivered them from bondage (Exodus 13:3). However, even with their newly acquired freedom, they complained about what they lacked:

The sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us our into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger’” (Exodus 16:3).

The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna’” (Numbers 11:4-6).

Many remembered what they had been “given” for “free” in Egypt – though they conveniently forgot the great price they paid (enslavement and oppression) for this “free” food – and thought they were entitled to it. This led them to complain against God and disregard the blessings He was providing them.

The “entitlement mentality” is contrary to a couple of fundamental characteristics we are to have as God’s people.

  1. Contentment – Paul wrote, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11). The Israelites were not content with what God provided them (Numbers 11:6; Exodus 16:3). Many today are also not content with the blessings they have received from God and believe they are entitled to something more.
  2. Submission to God – When people adopt an “entitlement mentality,” they will give their allegiance to the entity that will provide their “entitlements.” In the case of the Israelites, this was Egypt. In the case of many today, this is the civil government. Yet God’s people are to have “no other gods before [Him]” (Exodus 20:3). We are to submit to God, not the entity that may be able to provide the “entitlements” we desire (cf. Acts 5:29). But too many people are willing to treat rulers as “a god” if they are “fed by” them (Acts 12:20-22).

In this article, let us consider a few things that many people believe they are entitled to and contrast that belief with the Scriptures.

We Are Not Entitled to Happiness

For many people, whatever makes them happy is what they believe they should be allowed to do. This can involve any number of things, including the consumption of alcohol and engaging in various types of fornication.

Yet our lives should not be focused on whatever makes us happy. We have been called to “deny” self and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). Our first priority must be to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects” (Colossians 1:10). Our second priority must be to please others, even to the point of putting their interests ahead of our own. Paul wrote, “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me’” (Romans 15:1-3). We need to remember the example of Jesus in putting others first and obeying God even “to the point of death” (Philippians 2:3-8).

We are not entitled to happiness. Instead, we need to be willing to give up the things that make us “happy” if they prevent us from pleasing God and helping others.

We Are Not Entitled to Acceptance

As many believe they are entitled to do whatever makes them happy, they also believe they are entitled to the acceptance of others in whatever lifestyle they have chosen. This is commonly seen in the practice of homosexuality. We are also starting to see it with the current “transgender” issue that has arisen.

The Scriptures teach that one who does wrong is not entitled to the acceptance of the righteous. Paul wrote, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11, KJV). On the other hand, those who are righteous should not expect that the world will accept them. Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

We are not entitled to acceptance. Regardless of whether one is righteous or wicked, there will be others – sometimes many others – who will not accept his beliefs, practices, or lifestyle. We need to strive to gain the favor of God by serving Him rather than seeking the acceptance of men (Galatians 1:10).

We Are Not Entitled to a Certain Standard of Living

A standard of living could include a particular income, type of job, level of education, quality of health care, and so on. Many see these “entitlements” as political issues with people on the “left” and “right” having different opinions about them. However, this is also a Biblical issue. The Scriptures never suggest that we are entitled to such things.

Notice what Paul wrote about the need for contentment: “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Philippians 4:11-12). He told the Corinthians, “I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Corinthians 11:27). Even when Paul had to endure miserable conditions, he never suggested that he was being denied something to which he was entitled.

We are not entitled to a certain standard of living. It is possible that though hard work we may improve our lot in life (Proverbs 14:23), though we must do this within the context of serving Christ (Colossians 3:23). But even if we have nothing more than “food and covering,” we must “be content” (1 Timothy 6:8).

We Are Not Entitled to the Possessions of Others

This is related to the previous point. Again, many see this as a political issue, but it is not primarily one. But since many believe they are entitled to a certain standard of living, they also believe they are entitled to take from others (or allow the civil authorities to do so) in order to get it.

The Scriptures teach that each one has a right to his own possessions. The wise man wrote, “Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward” (Ecclesiastes 5:18). When Jesus gave the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, He expressed this principle: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?” (Matthew 20:15). When Ananias and Sapphira were condemned for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3), Peter explained that they had the right to use their property and money in whatever way they saw fit: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” (Acts 5:4). Of course, those who have been richly blessed ought to share with those in need (1 Timothy 6:18); but this is to be done out of good will and by their own free choice. We are not to steal from others to help ourselves (Ephesians 4:28). Furthermore, it is “evil” for the “riches and wealth” that one has received by the blessing of God to be taken from him and enjoyed by someone else (Ecclesiastes 6:1-2).

We are not entitled to the possessions of others. They have been blessed by God and ought to choose to do good with their possessions rather than their possessions being taken from them for our benefit.

We Are Not Entitled to Marry Whoever We Want

These days, this issue usually comes up regarding homosexuality, but it is not limited to that. People believe they are entitled to marry whoever they want, regardless of gender or previous marriages. Yet this “entitlement” has not been given by God.

God created the institution of marriage in the beginning. After created Adam, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). He then created a woman for the man (Genesis 2:21-23). This was the foundation for all marriages that would follow: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Since God created the institution of marriage, He gets to make the rules about marriage and we must respect His rules: “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). When Jesus taught about marriage, He said that marriage was for a “male and female” and “the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-5). This ruled out homosexuality and polygamy. Furthermore, the Scriptures condemn the casual attitude toward divorce and remarriage that is common in our society. Paul wrote, “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man” (Romans 7:2-3). This means that a person cannot marry another while his spouse is still living – the only exception to this is if one puts away his spouse for fornication (Matthew 19:9).

We are not entitled to marry whoever we want. Marriage can only be between one man and one woman. Once a couple is bound by God in marriage, they remain bound to one another until either death or one puts away his mate for fornication. Anything beyond that is contrary to God’s marriage law. Claiming that a couple loves each other does not make their unauthorized marriage any less of a sin.

We Are Not Entitled to Our Own Interpretation of the Truth

This is at the heart of the “entitlement mentality.” It is the idea that all people can decide for themselves what is right for them – that there is no objective standard of right and wrong. Yet the Scriptures are clear that this is not the case.

Though everyone wants to believe what they want, this does not change the truth or the consequences of accepting what is false. The wise man said, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). God’s word is truth (John 17:17) and we must accept it. If we do not accept it, that does not change the fact that it is still the truth. Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We must learn how to handle the word of God properly rather than being like those who “distort…the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).

We are not entitled to our own interpretation of the truth. Instead, we need to accept the truth that is contained in the word of God.

Conclusion

The “entitlement mentality” is dangerous because it is a threat to contentment and is a subtle beginning to one’s rebellion against God. We need to be content with all of the good things that God has given us (James 1:17) and submit to His will rather than pursuing our own selfish interests (Luke 9:23).


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Comments

  1. Very good thoughts, Andy. Thank you for speaking up about this issue.

  2. Thanks!