We live in “interesting” days! My wife and I love and appreciate the gift of having a big family – 4 married offspring (+ their spouses) and 11 beautiful grandchildren. It is both enjoyable and slightly concerning to watch these latest generations grow up in the midst of our techno culture with all that this involves. We recognize our new responsibility (and privilege) to pray daily for each one of them.
I recently read an article found at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4232696/Millenials-generation-huge-sense-entitlement.html which is about the “Millennials” (those born between 1982 -2000) and some of the challenges for employers when these young people join their companies. The phrase used here to describe the culture of some of this age group is “having a sense of entitlement”.
This is defined as follows: “If someone has a sense of entitlement, that means the person believes he deserves certain privileges — and he’s arrogant about it. The term “culture of entitlement” suggests that many people now have highly unreasonable expectations about what they are entitled to.” https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/entitlement In other places it is called an “entitlement complex”!
The article mentioned above does say that “Of course…not every young person born in these years is … foolishly self-regarding [thankfully!] … but many view [this] generation as the most entitled and egotistical to date.” It continues, this is “a generation who ‘want to know what’s in it for them’.”
I also heard recently a short message on our local Christian radio station when the speaker spoke of “mini-outrages”, often posted on social media platforms. He wasn’t suggesting that these came only from “millennials” (and they don’t), but talking of how people vent about the smallest (what most would call relatively insignificant) things, again suggesting this false sense of entitlement.
In our psalm for today (Psalm 31) maybe some might consider that David might be one of these people who has a sense of entitlement as he complains to God about the events of his life. Although one has to admit, the events in his life that he mentions could hardly be defined as “mini-outrages”! Listen to what he says:
9 Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbours
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!” They conspire against me
and plot to take my life.
So, considering all those words in bold font above, even the most self-serving person (which generally David was not) would have to admit that David did actually have grounds for justifiable complaint. In fact, maybe he could also justifiably have had a sense of “entitlement” – he was the King of Israel after all!
But, somehow, all this does not come across in this psalm. These are not the words of some self-centred despotic king wanting his own way and “spitting the dummy”, so to speak! In fact, these are the words of David, the one described as a “man after God’s own heart”. Listen to that heart speak to the God he reverently trusted, adored and worshipped, even in the midst of trouble:
1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
Note those words in bold font in verse 3:
Here lies the motivation for David’s complaint to God, for his prayer for help – “…for the sake of your name…” Sure, David was human like us and so wasn’t exactly enjoying the suffering that he was going through, but there was so much more at stake than just relief from his suffering. There was God’s name, God’s reputation, God’s honour and glory! David’s desire, along with his own deliverance, was that through all his troubles, it would become obvious that God, and God alone, was the One who was worthy of praise and glory.
And so he says:
19 How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.
21 Praise be to the Lord,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
And so exhorts all of us to:
23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.
In one sense, we are “entitled”, not because of anything we have done, or deserve, but only because of the wonderful truth (in Genesis 1) that is described when God created us:
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Sadly, sin has marred that image in us and that is why Jesus came. To restore what was at creation, through his life, death and resurrection. To restore us to a place of “entitlement” only available through a right relationship with Him.
And so Paul was able to pray for fellow believers in Jesus:
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
All the privileges (“entitlements”) of knowing God are ours in Christ, but like David and Paul, we should consider that the most important thing in life is “the glory and praise of God.” Hopefully this will be the truth that transforms the present culture of “entitlement” not only amongst some millennials but also amongst many others of us.
Father, thank you for our families and other young friends growing up in what has been called a culture of entitlement. Help us all to understand that if we have any rights at all, it is only by the grace of God. May we all, as Paul puts it, have the same mindset as Christ and Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above ourselves, 4 not looking to our own interests but each of us to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4) Amen.