Monthly Archives: May 2014

Entitlement

The sense of entitlement in our country today is out of control. The government funds much of it, but the family has created the environment of “someone owes me” as generation after generation learn to “work the system.” It goes beyond government programs, though. A new class of college graduates are entering the workforce with the belief that they should be entitled to the same salary and privileges as long-term employees. Teenagers believe that everyone should do whatever and give anything they desire. Those teenagers eventually become adults but do not change the entitlement they believe they have earned.

Sadly, this problem has invaded the church. Rather than being part of a church to serve, Christians attend church to be served. Children’s and youth ministries have been created on attraction and fun, and when the fun subsides, people go to the next church. Could it be that one of the main reasons our high school graduates quit attending church in college is because the fun of youth ministry is gone? We have raised a generation that believes it is entitled to a church that is “fun.” Adults believe that the church staff is there is meet their every need, attend every surgery, visit every prospect, evangelize the lost, and preach the best sermon ever each week.

But the problem has also invaded the church staff. It is not just the people in the pew, but many pastors and staff members believe they should be treated with great respect, yet they refuse to demonstrate that same respect. We (yes, I have been guilty) believe that we are entitled to everyone following what we want without asking any questions because “I am the pastor” or some other title. Because we have the degrees, we think that no one should challenge anything we do. Entitlement reigns all around us.

I was reading Daniel this week. I am familiar with Daniel’s story of purity and commitment in the face of opposition. I knew all about Daniel’s (and other young men’s) selection due to his physical and intellectual qualities. They were going to be trained to be some of the best young minds in Babylon. Something I had never noticed, “Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his royal officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility” (Daniel 1:3- emphasis mine). Daniel, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were descendants of King Hezekiah. Even if not direct descendants of the king, they were nobly born in Judah.

If anyone had the right to feel entitled, it was these young men. While they were committed to the Lord and His Law, they probably had everything they ever wanted and people that served them. They longed for the days when they held positions of importance in Judah. But when they were exiled, all of that changed, except their commitments to the Lord.

Daniel and his friends could have easily said to themselves, “We see what serving the Lord has done for us, so we might as well compromise and eat the food of the king. We have never had such food and we deserve it.” These young men, probably no older than 20, remain committed even when things do not go as they planned.

Our lot in life does not change God’s will for our lives. Just because we do not like something at church does not mean that we are entitled to quit serving or quit attending altogether. When things go not go our way at work does not mean that we can work half-heartedly. Adjustments and difficulty at home do not give us the right to pack up and leave. Continuing to commit the same sin and believing you are entitled to grace shows the immaturity of your faith.

The Apostle Paul had plenty of reasons to feel entitled: great pedigree, excellent education, leader in the early church and the evangelization of the early world, just to mention a few, but yet he stated: “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). May we strive to have the same attitude.

“Just” the Right Kind of Leader

Last week I wrote the need for Christians to serving. Serving others it the biblical form of leadership, but we see throughout Scripture that those in leadership positions that were supposed to serve the people end up leading the people astray because they are not just.

I am leading a study though Micah on Wednesday evenings, and through Micah, God condemns leaders who have a lifestyle of violence, oppression, selfishness, and injustice toward others. As the old saying goes, the leaders were “chewing up and spitting out” the people under their authority. All too often selfishness and jealousy eventually lead to injustices toward those who are weaker. God rejected violence as an acceptable behavior pattern as far back as Noah’s flood, and He judged the Egyptians for their oppressive injustice to the Hebrews.

When modern leaders, whether inside or outside of the church, behave oppressively or unjustly, it is a sign that they do not fear God. Leaders who act this way have either thoroughly rejected God’s instructions about justice in the Scriptures or are so perverted by their selfishness and rationalization of improper behavior that they no longer fully comprehend the distinction between right and wrong.

By the way, all of us are leaders. You may not have an official position of leadership, but if you are a parent, you are a leader. There are people at work that look to you for direction. There are those that watch you and desire to act like you. You are a leader, but what kind of leader are you?

If leaders cannot be trusted to do the right and just thing, how can one respect their decisions and follow them? Too often a leader’s selfish goals and desires are given higher value than justice.

The lack of concern for others should never be a characteristic of leader, especially in the church. However, we pastors are the worst at taking resistance and complaints personally, then showing injustice to those who do not support us. I see others that bow down to influential church members, especially those with wealth, and manipulate them for their own good and wishes.

Scripture condemns those who center much of their attention on gaining possessions, are unprincipled or unjust in the way they achieve status and power, or place their hope and satisfaction in money or power. If leaders center their hearts on God, they will value justice, serve others, and enjoy whatever God has given them. Bonhoeffer said that “our being Christian today will be limited to two things: prayer and doing justice among men.” Such statements should not be taken lightly, for the level of devotion to prayer and justice reveals a great deal about a person’s relationship to God.

Spiritual leaders like Billy Graham are respected and used by God because they do not get caught up in all the controversies and have a deep sense of the presence of the Spirit filling their lives. Dr. Graham speaks boldly about sin, includes themes about God’s injustice, and is not shy about calling people to forsake the selfish cares of the world. Although no human leader is perfect or should be set up as the ideal example to follow, God can powerfully use leaders who are marked by justice. But God will abandon those who lead people astray through unjust behavior.