We have all met people who carry a sense of entitlement or feel they deserve special treatment above everyone else. We see this clearly in the child who feels like their parent owes them every desire or the celebrity that thinks they are above the law. Some churches even witness this with leaders who believe they have the right to say and do as they choose, from gossiping to manipulation to sexual sin. Yet, some may struggle with a sense of spiritual entitlement in a way that is less obvious. Entitlement will fool us into thinking that God owes us and is working for us, instead of the other way around. Before long, we quote His promises like a reward for our own good deeds and spend more time boasting about who we are than honoring who He is. Whenever we start to take God’s blessing for granted and use His promises as a source of pride, we are in dangerous territory.
We can see spiritual entitlement at work in Luke 9:46
Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest.
Jesus responds to this by reminding them that the “the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” In other words, those who would be humble and not seek to be in a higher position would be the ones who would be seen as the greatest. Even Jesus had the complete right to be prideful about who He was yet chose to see His life as one of servanthood not an entitlement.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God ra thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:5-7
So, although, there are blessings attached to our relationship with God it is not because of how special we are but how good He is. When we fail to recognize that on our own we could never be worthy enough for God’s salvation, we become like spoiled children believing that God exists to make us happy.
With this in mind, here are five signs you may struggle with spiritual entitlement.
1.) You feel like God owes you.
Spiritual entitlement operates under the notion that “I’ve done this for God” so He better do something for me. So often, Bible verses that were meant to inspire hope are twisted to mean that God better get into action on our behalf. Yet, the truth is, God owes us nothing! The fact that He has saved us, and that He loves us is the greatest blessing we could ever receive. So, although we should lean on His promises, God’s word was never meant to be used as a way to simply get what we want. Oftentimes, we get frustrated with God when our lives are not how we want them to be. We think our mere acceptance of Jesus should allow us the perfect life. Yet, if we look at throughout the Bible, we can easily see that following God was wrought with suffering from Daniel being placed in the lion’s den to the martyring the disciples. We can’t just expect the blessings from God without knowing there will also be difficult seasons.
Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, the author of Longing For Motherhood, describes a few ways we allow entitlement to creep into our lives with thoughts like the following:
“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 a good homemaker and work hard to keep the house clean and tidy. I deserve to have a nicer, bigger home.”
If any of these thought patterns sound like the way you think, now is a good time to repent and thank God for all that He has done for you thus far.
2.) You bring your hands to God more than your heart.
If your prayer times sound more like a child’s request for Christmas gifts, you may struggle with spiritual entitlement. Our attitudes toward God shouldn’t be “give me, give me God” but “How can I serve you, Lord?” Although God desires for us to seek Him for our needs, He also desires to have a relationship with us. In a natural sense, we can recognize that a relationship that only consisted of one person bringing a list of requests and complaints wouldn’t last for very long. This wanting more from God without wanting to have a relationship with God is rooted in having a sense of entitlement. Yet, the blessings of God work in conjunction with following His voice. If we never take time to spend time with God and know His heart for us, we will find ourselves asking for things that are not even according to His will! Let us bring our heart to God more than our hands so that we may know what He desires for us.
3.) You think you are above God’s word.
If you think you know better than God or that His word doesn’t fully apply to you, this is a sign of spiritual entitlement. This is often seen when people make a choice to pick and choose Bible verses that they resonate with and leave out those that they do not. Many will mask this selective approach to the Bible with the phrase, “That’s not my conviction.” Before long, Christians can fall into the trap of believing that their beliefs or personal convictions override God’s word. This a key reason there is so much division in the church. With each Christian claiming to know what the “truth” is how can we expect nonbelievers to respect Christianity. This notion of being allowed to interpret the Word based on our personal life experiences and not within the context of the passage can lead us to make choices and support things that contradict God’s word. We must recognize that we are not the final say for what is right, God is.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
4.) You aren’t generous
If you can never find time, energy, or money to be charitable, this is a sign of feeling entitled. As a church planter alongside my husband, we hear those who say, “Why is the church trying to want my money?” or “I don’t feel like serving.” Yet, when we feel like we don’t have to pitch in at our local church or even in our community, this is an issue. If we expect our pastors to serve us with preparing a message each week, helping us during a time of need, and creating events/times of fellowship, we should see it as a privilege to help financially and by showing up to assist. Often times, we have high expectations of what “the church” owes us but never consider how we can be a part of the solution. Much like with God, we bring our hands to the church but not our hearts. If you’ve found yourself doing as little as possible to help your local church or the person that you meet in need, its time to pray! A major aspect of walking out our Christian journey is to look for opportunities to serve one another.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
5.) You look down on other Christians.
Do you find yourself looking down on other Christians? There are times when Christians allow themselves to believe that their denomination is more holy, hear God better, and know God more. In doing so, they start to walk in a sense of pride and entitlement. Before long, they start to categorize Christianity in a “us vs them” perspective. Christians who hold different political beliefs, who don’t go to church as much, or who believe differently about subjects such as speaking in tongues, are treated with disdain. This sense of feeling better than other people causes us to carry a sense of pride and criticism that is not becoming of a child of God. Instead, we should seek to walk in love, even when we encounter those who feel different from us. We cannot expect that God loves us more or hear our prayers moreover such things, this is the definition of walking with a sense of entitlement.
Overall, whenever we allow ourselves to be pompous about our status as children of God, we run the risk of walking in spiritual entitlement. Our salvation can never be earned and His grace toward us is a privilege, not a bragging point. Let us check our heart to see if pride has taken root. May we walk in humility and appreciation of all that He has done for us.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ Philippians 3:7-8