We live with the “entitlement generation” in our culture today. For some years, people under 30 have been trained by the culture to believe that life owes them something. In short, they’ve been trained to think that their personal feelings and desires should be the guiding principle of their entire lives. They’ve carried this attitude into every area of their lives too – with devastating results. For example, in many cases young workers who get jobs today are often the kinds of employees who resent being asked to do anything by the boss. They somehow think a job is just a means for someone to give them money, a way for society to continue giving them an allowance. They don’t see their work as serving their employers interests. Now, of course, in the employers mind, he/she hires someone so that a job will get done – so the employer will make a profit. But in the entitlement generation’s eyes the employer provides a job so the employee will have spending money. The entitlement generation thinks “Jobs exist for my personal benefit”. Too often, they are mystified when they get fired and even more amazed when they find out no one else wants to hire them either.
This often carries over into personal relationships as well. Our entire culture is wrapped around the idea that we must “be true to ourselves.” In previous generations, this wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. After all, if you are passionate about being a teacher, then you should be a teacher and not a brick-layer. But the entitlement generation believes that being “true to ourselves” means allowing our desires to rule our decisions. Thus, if I fall in love I need to be true to myself and follow that love – because love is good. It doesn’t matter the person saying this is a married man and being “true to self” would mean leaving a wife and children. It doesn’t matter that these actions will emotionally and spiritually devastate a wife and children because as far as the entitlement generation is concerned being true-to-self trumps everything.
In the same way, our culture has trained an entire generation to be so completely self-centered they cannot even grasp what Jesus meant when He said, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.” It should come as no surprise to us that many people think that God owes them something too. The idea of “serving God” is foreign or, at least, misunderstood. There are some who think serving God is some sort of ceremonial fulfillment they must accomplish…to get what they want. Idol worshippers in all cultures and time periods have fallen prey to this kind of thinking. They believe that sacrifice and ceremony will placate the gods…so they can get what they want.
The one and only true God will not be manipulated in this fashion. He said “I am not interested in sacrifice. If I were hungry I would not tell you…” What God wants is for us to abandon our quest to control Him or to gain some sort of benefit from Him by keeping rules or giving big gifts. Instead, He wants a genuine relationship – and that requires GIVING of our hearts to Him. You can’t fake that.
If all I did in my marriage was “give to get” then, if my relationship survived at all, it would be mighty shallow. What my wife wants is for me to give of myself to her BECAUSE I love her – not so I can gain something. Now – it is true, I certainly do gain something by the investment of time, energy and care I put into our relationship but the center of what I do is not a means to get something for myself. I give – because I love my wife.
This is the difference between loving God and just following a list of rules or traditions. It’s all about our motivations. So I say it’s time we began to pray for a new heart – a heart transformed by God so that what we do and why we do it is ALWAYS coming from a heart that loves God. This sort of heart can drive a believer to sacrifice his or her very life for the cause of our great King. Let’s keep praying for that sort of heart.
Remember “we are what we are becoming.” The more we pray for this heart, the more our efforts will flow from a heart that loves God. And this is what builds relationship – not entitlements.