In spite of the many controversies that seem to continually threaten the reputation of our country, we must admit that, in so many ways, those of us who call ourselves Americans are incredibly blessed to be living in this country. We take an infinite number of opportunities and material possessions for granted each and every day—from access to food and clean, running tap water to top notch medical facilities, comfortable homes and cars, and ultimately, great material wealth relative to much of the world.
However, with much blessing comes much temptation. The reality is that there is an endless number of sin traps tucked away in the expanse of the human heart, and every minute of every day, they lie in wait for us. They drive a wedge between God and man. Idolatry, selfish conceit, deceitfulness, greed, envy, bitterness, rage—there are too many to count. It is no surprise that the Bible extends so many words of warning toward the rich, for in the midst of wealth and abundance, many of these sin traps grow deeper and wider. They threaten to swallow us whole, even though the comfort of our lives may blind us to it. Check out this passage from 1 Timothy:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
As I recently reflected upon this passage, I understood it in a new light. The reminders about godly contentment and the danger of loving money were already familiar to me, but this time, one simple word sprouted up inside my head and stuck—entitlement. It’s likely not a word that would make it onto many of our lists of the most dangerous sin traps. However, I would argue that it’s a constant battle for most of us, and a risky one, even though we may scarcely recognize it.
When we succumb to entitlement, we are swayed by the conviction that we have a right to something, often a self-focused idea that we rightly deserve some special privilege, acknowledgment, or circumstance that we don’t currently have. We’re all guilty of it, and our generally comfortable, individualistic, self-gratifying American culture hasn’t made it any easier for us not to be conquered by it.
In the last few months, I’ve often felt convicted of this battle in my own heart. When my living situation became less than ideal due to the smoking habits of some neighbors, I was angered by the injustice of it, convinced that I deserved a cleaner, more comfortable place to live. As I have dealt with chronic medical issues, I’ve been disheartened, convincing myself that it’s only fair that I should be in better health. Maybe for you it happens when the boss passes over you for the promotion this year, even though you feel you had a right to it more than anyone else in the office. Paradoxically, it often seems that the more we have, the more entitlement we feel. Our material abundance and our wealth of opportunities blind our hearts and our eyes.
Entitlement sneaks up in many destructive ways, and it reveals to us the fundamental deception of our own hearts and the depth of our sin and brokenness. When we consider the truth that the gospel holds for us, we must realize how wrong we are. Do we really deserve any of these things at all? Does God owe us these things? Not at all! According to the truth of Scripture and our wretched sin, all that we deserve, and all that we have a right to, is eternal punishment.
As Paul writes in 1 Timothy, “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” This is not only a reflection on wealth but also an urging toward humility—for when we entered this world, we had nothing. And we deserved nothing. Rather, everything that we have in this life is a good gift of God’s miraculous grace to us, something for which we should be eternally grateful.
We must remind ourselves consistently that our tendency toward entitlement kills godly contentment. It strangles gratitude. And in the end, we will never truly rejoice in the Lord and His good gifts to us until we cease to believe the lie that there is anything better we could ever be given.