Summary: Entitlement is when people feel that the world owes them something without having to do anything to earn it. We llok at entitlement in our culture and then see what Scripture has to say about it
In his commencement speech to the Wellesley High School Class of 2012, English teacher David McCullough delivered some sobering words: “None of you is special. You are not special. You are not exceptional.” He called the graduating students “pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble wrapped... nudged, cajoled ... feted and fawned over… Contrary to what your U9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain (corpulent) purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and….no matter how often your maternal caped crusader (mom) has swooped in to save you, you are nothing special.” David McCullough said these things because kids today have been so pampered and coddled that they have an attitude of entitlement.
Mitt Romney was recorded in a private conversation during his bid for the presidency: “….there are 47 percent…who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That’s an entitlement. (and they believe) the government should give it to them.” Or take the story of the CEO of a Fortune 500 company whose commercial flight had engine problems and had to make an emergency landing. Everyone was de-boarded from the plane and then got in a long line to rebook their flights. He walked by 50 people in line and stepped up to the counter and began to blame the ticket agent for his predicament of missing a major meeting. She told him to get back in line whereupon he said, “Young lady, do you know who I am? I could have your job with a simple phone call!” High schoolers have to have designer fashions, college graduates are in debt up to their eyeballs but go out and buy the largest flatscreen because others have it. 40-somethings took out mortgages they couldn’t afford because they “deserved” a larger house. And people facing retirement who have lived well by overspending have saved nothing for retirement but now face the choice of working for the rest of their lives or subsisting on Social Security. No matter your age or your income, Americans in general have a sense of entitlement. And the fact is that none of these people came into the world with an attitude of entitlement. Slowly over time with the help of many forces, entitlement attitudes blossomed and grew.
Entitlement is when people feel that the world owes them something without having to do anything to earn it. It started in earnest after WW II when the United States experienced unprecedented economic growth and the Baby Boomers experienced the highest standard of living of any generation in human history. The entire consumer market focused on them because of the numbers of their generation, catering to their every need and wants. Boomers then passed on to their children the promise of “The American Dream” that every American will get to have a good life, a job they enjoy, a generous paycheck, affordable housing and transportation and a secure retirement and an expectation that their standard of living would be the same or better than their parent’s, not taking into account that it took decades of hard work to attain that. There are other ways parents have contributed to this. We cook a dinner and our children don’t like it so we make them something else. We buy our kids the latest tech toys for Christmas, even though they may be 10 time more expensive than the toys we grew up with. We give our children cell phones and cave into their demands for designer clothing and $150 tennis shoes. We hand out trophies to every child on every team regardless of their record.
Romeo Clayton suggests there are other contributing factors: “What about the bankruptcy system that forgives our debts if we find ourselves in a financial bind?” What about a government that gives public assistance seemingly forever to individuals and families? What about the medical care anyone gets when they walk into an emergency room, even when they don’t pay? What about churches, like ours, who give food to the poor but never really do anything to help that person get of out the cycle of poverty? Entitlements. We do like them. If we're poor, we deserve help from the government. If we're rich, we deserve a tax break; if we are workers, we deserve better fringe benefits; if we are bankers, we deserve a bailout; if we are a farmer, we deserve subsidies; if we are a special interest group, we deserve a special hearing. It seems like today everyone wants an entitlement. It’s like a growing disease and has destrimental affects.
What is the impact of an attitude of entitlement? First is Debt. The average US household has $15, 956 of credit card debt. You work hard and deserve nice things, right? So just go out, charge it and worry about paying for it later. Second, our priorities get muddied as we confuse what we want and what we really need. We have the highest standard of living in the world and what used to be a want, we now think is a need. We need food, shelter, clothing and a good education but everything else is just a want. Third is dependence. If our parents or our churches or even our government always bails us out, we become dependent on them and experience no repercussions from our actions. That leads to the fourth impact which is laziness and an unwillingness to labor and sacrifice for anything in life. We think we’re owed in life and so we never strive for our own keep or financial independence. And when life isn’t what we thought it would be, we end up just blaming others and never take responsibility for our own life. Fifth is blame. We never hold ourselves accountable. We blame illegal immigrants for keeping wages low, or workers from India or China for taking high-skilled jobs. Instead of accepting the challenge and trying to amp up our efforts, too many American workers will call out for protection thinking they’re the victims. Sixth, we become a burden to others. Our Scripture today makes very clear that when we expect others to provide for us or to save us, we become a burden to other people, to the Gospel message and our witness and to our nation. Seventh, we fail to live out the example of our faith and the will of God. Jesus worked and gave everything he had in life, seeking not to be served as some want but to become a servant of others. Likewise, the apostles did the same, eventually giving their lives for the faith. Paul calls followers of Jesus to do the same, as we are called today. Our work and our attitude is our witness.