Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Are You Feeling Thankful or Entitled?

I heard a story about a rich man who sent his son on a trip to the country in order to educate him on how poor people live. Upon the son’s return, his father asked him about the trip. The son offered, “It was great Dad.” The father then inquired, “Did you see how poor people live? What did you learn?” The son responded, “Well, I learned that we have one dog, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have lanterns in our garden and they can see all the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front of our yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have to buy our food and they grow their own freely.” The boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are!” Among other things, this story illustrates how the difference between being thankful and not, is simply perspective.

Being thankful is a diminishing mindset in our present culture. In its place, we are fostering a culture that conditions us to feel entitled. An entitled mindset is the exact opposite of a thankful mindset. What made America great was God and our thankfulness for His providence. Likewise, what will tear this country apart is the opposite sentiment. When we take our eyes off of God and all that He freely provides, we target others that we perceive as more fortunate than ourselves and demand that they give us what they earned. This might be expected of those who have lost sight of God. But, this mindset is misaligned for those who claim the mind of Christ. Jesus does not foster an entitlement mindset because He paid the ultimate price to give the world the only thing it most desperately needed … Himself (Philippians 2). His grace is sufficient for us. And, what the world needs from Christians is for us to proclaim His gospel as our only need until He returns. The gospel promises the free and eternal gift of reconciliation with God and all His many gifts that come with that, including immortality, God’s constant presence and a royal eternity. When someone truly grasps that, they surrender any thread of entitlement in the here and now. And, they certainly don’t align themselves with those who peddle it. To whatever extent someone feels entitled, it is to that extent that they are ungrateful.

This entitlement conditioning ultimately fosters laziness and a covetous greed. This is clearly displayed in Jesus’ parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25. Jesus also implores the appropriate mindset in the parable of The Dutiful Servant in Luke 17. And, Paul was quite direct when he said in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” In addition to that guidance there are also many verses imploring God’s children to rejoice in all things and to be constantly content and grateful. My favorite is 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” By the way, “all” in that verse means all in every translation and every language.

Therefore, I will reserve this post to declare my thankfulness for certain things for which we should all be thankful:

·        I am thankful for the gift of life.
·        I am thankful for the immeasurable gifts that God has poured into my life, none of which I deserved.
·        I am thankful that when I ultimately lose my life, God will raise it anew.
·        I am thankful for spiritual life; that I am not just flesh and blood.
·        I am thankful that God has already raised me to spiritual new life out of my spiritual death.
·        I am thankful for God not giving up on my pitiful fallen condition.
·        I am thankful that God came in flesh and blood in order to share in my pain and pay for my wrongs.
·        I am thankful that God suffered with me and for me.
·        I am thankful that God offers me total and eternal forgiveness in exchange for nothing.
·        I am thankful that God adopts me as His own son.
·        I am thankful that God makes me a co-heir to His own Kingdom.
·        I am thankful that God provides my every need at every moment of every day.
·        I am thankful that God is present with me even when I ignore Him.
·        I am thankful that God calls me righteous, even when others see that my flesh is not.
·        I am thankful for Jesus!

I realize that some Christians today align with fostering the entitlement mindset out of genuine belief that life is not fair. There is a kernel of truth in that. That kernel is that life truly is not fair. But the fact that life is not fair is not an invitation to demand from our fellow man by force of law. Rather, life not being fair is an invitation to thank God. Christians, I implore you to thank God that life is not fair. If life were fair, we would get what we deserve. And, I for one, deserve Hell right now. And, so do you. But, God is not fair as He radically gives us every good gift that we don’t deserve. “For God so loved the world that He gave.” We have been given Jesus. We need nothing more! Thank you, Lord!