Last week I had a chore day with the kids, and they pitched right in and helped cheerfully, no complaining or whining or anything. Okay, well, maybe a little. Actually, a lot. Oh, who am I kidding? They were anything but happy to help, and from their protests you’d think I was torturing them. I must be the meanest mom in the entire world, because I made them sweep out the garage and the screened in porch and the patio! And then I had the gall to have them vacuum the living room and steam mop the kitchen. Can you think of a crueler thing for a mother to ask of her kids? Now, look, I didn’t expect them to smile and thank me for the chance to help out, but as I observed their behavior as we worked, I came to a sobering realization. Despite my very best efforts otherwise, my children are entitled.
I’m not sure what it was that first clued me in to this stark fact. Maybe it was the eye rolls, the objections raised immediately, or the tattling when a sibling was shirking his or her duties. Or maybe it was the comments: “Well, I get two dollars for this, you know,” or “I get to have an ice cream cone when I’m done,” or “I’m doing more than he is. He has to unload the dishwasher for me tomorrow.” As I watched and listened to them I couldn’t help but wonder how it is that they ended up like this already. We certainly try not to foster a sense of entitlement among our children. We don’t buy them whatever they want, we expect them to do chores around the house, and we don’t use money to bribe them. They earn a small allowance, yes, but that’s directly tied to a chore chart and if they don’t do them all they don’t earn the full amount. It’s really more of a way for them to earn and manage money than anything else. But regardless, somehow or another, they’ve picked up on the entitlement thing anyhow.
It would be easy to blame our culture for this phenomenon that’s hardly unique to my children. Commercials in general are aimed at getting people to want whatever product they’re selling. Most commercials try to convince you that you deserve it. You’re worth the best iPhone, the latest gaming system, the new car, the cutest clothes… It’s ingrained in our culture that if we want something, we deserve to have it. That, my friends, is entitlement, and it’s the adults who are pushing it. Is it any wonder kids feel entitled as well? They learn it by watching us.
Lest you think it’s just the culture, take a look at your own life as well. Do you inadvertently contribute to said mentality by your attitude around your kids? Have you ever made a snarky comment? “I shouldn’t have to put up with this stuff at work. I’m better than that.” Or maybe you’ve complained about not getting a promotion or feeling under appreciated. Maybe you’ve even found yourself whining about your circumstances to God. Like my own children whining to me about my lot in life, don’t we ever whine and complain to our own Heavenly Father? “God, this isn’t the kind of life I expected as a faithful believer. Why does my life have to be so hard?” Or we wonder why our brother or sister in Christ has it easier than we do. “Why does she have it so easy? It’s not fair!” Or sometimes we even make our own conditions, like my kids demanding more allowance. “Well, I’ll do this, but someone better darn well notice my efforts.” Hmm. Maybe we are entitled, after all.
So what can be done? Take stock of your own attitude. You can’t control the culture, but you can change your attitude. Model for your kids a sense of gratitude to your Heavenly Father for all He has given you. Don’t complain about what you don’t have. Be thankful for what you do have. Thank Him for all those First Article gifts- your body and soul, eyes, ears, and all your members, your reason and all your senses, clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, animals, and all you have. Your Father defends you against all danger and guards and protects you from all evil. And all this He does purely out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in you.
You see, you don’t deserve anything. Anything, that is, but punishment. Put aside your cultural blinders for a moment and look at the biblical perspective. Remember the words of the explanation to the Fifth Petition: “We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment.” But God didn’t leave it at that. Jesus took your sins upon Himself. He didn’t deserve the punishment He received, but He didn’t complain about it. He did it for you. And even if you really do have a hard lot in life, be thankful that you aren’t getting the eternal punishment you rightfully deserve for your sins. Your spot in heaven has already been won for you, not by anything you’ve done to earn it, or because you’re somehow “entitled” to it. No, because Jesus bought you back from the sin and death that was your rightful punishment.
God doesn’t owe you anything on this earth. The blessings He chooses to grant are only because of His great love. It has been said that mercy is when God chooses not to give us what we rightfully deserve (aka, punishment), and grace is when God freely gives us what we don’t deserve (eternal life). Thank God that in Christ Jesus we have both.