The “entitlement generation” is all over the news today. Entitlement-think can tempt everyone but those most deeply affected by it seem to be the Millennials (ages 23 – 38) and Generation Z (ages 7 – 22). Obviously, not everyone in this demographic acts the same but a fair majority of Millennials and Generation Z believe that people are naturally good, so life owes them whatever they desire.
Entitlement-think elevates personal feelings and desires as the guiding principle of life. Unfortunately, being driven solely by personal desires can lead to selfishness and a lack of understanding about how the real-world works. In the real world, life is not fair, not everyone gets a trophy just for participation and there is a harsh indifference beyond the boundaries of one’s own skin.
Lacking this understanding has consequences. For example, elevating one’s self-interest to god-like status can devastate personal relationships. This is so because entitlement thinking is wrapped around the idea that everyone must “be true to the self” and that has nasty repercussions. In one way, being true to self is not 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. That is being true to yourself in a good way. But entitlement thinking believes “I must be true to myself” means allowing personal self-interest to rule. The result can be twisting relationship away from giving of the self to another person into getting what you want from someone else. When that twist takes hold, other people becomes mere means to a self-interested end. As a result, is it a surprise we suffer the highest divorce rate in history? After all, as soon as the other person no longer fulfills, or other desires crowd in…well…see ya!
So, we see a trail of abandoned wives and husbands and children across our culture. And really - how many meaningless emotional flings must people have before it is clear that self-interest is shallow and unfulfilling?
But worse is watching how elevating self-interest makes people think rules and standards are unnecessary too. In entitlement-think good people are…well…good so why the need for rules? Rules and standards, it is thought, are arbitrary means for powerful, self-righteous, racist elites to control the folks but good people will be good; so, law enforcement must be a symbol of oppression that good people do not really need. And since there are so many examples of unfairness and corruption by law enforcement over the centuries, (particularly unfair oppression of some races – and that is a fact), the riots and looting must be reactions against these external controls. But entitlement-think proclaims that naturally good people will settle down once their repressed feelings are expended. Entitlement-think honestly believes that once law enforcement and rules are abandoned, everyone will eventually revert to the natural state of “goodness” so it was quite a surprise to some when the Seattle autonomous zone (free from oppressive cops) did not produce utopia.
Now…in one way, if you define “good” to mean “of value” then people are good. In this sense, all people are immensely valuable. There is beauty and dignity and worth in every human being – but not because we are good in a moral sense. Just watch the news or look at the record of your own life. The facts are in - no one is truly, morally good.
Sure, you can make good moral choices from time to time. You may even be more moral than others. You may even be able to say your life (or at least Mother Theresa’s) is morally good overall. But no one measures up to the standards of God who is pure goodness.
Just take a personal inventory and you will see. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, even something small? Have you ever hated someone so deeply in your heart you would celebrate to see them dead? (That’s murder in God’s eyes!) Ever lusted after someone (that’s like literally cheating in God’s eyes) or thrown the name of God around like a dirty word? (That an insult to Him that He calls blasphemy).
Everyone must say yes to everything on this list – and these are just five of the things God forbids in the Ten Commandments. This is why Jesus said in Mark 10:18, “No one is good except God alone.” In fact, the Bible teaches people are not naturally morally good – the Bible says we are naturally depraved. Left to ourselves, without moral standards or law-enforcement, we will indeed elevate our own self-interest over everything and everyone. That explains Portland and Seattle. It explains bad cops and racism and the oppression of the poor for the last 5,000 years too.
So, what do we do?
Well, we should not, in fact, abandon laws or rules or law enforcement to solve the problem, as entitlement-think suggests. Law enforcement, moral codes, and positive and negative reinforcement are still important and necessary parts of keeping the sin nature at bay. History shows that boundary-less humans, overwhelmed by a self-absorbed sin-nature, will ultimately fall into savagery and a greater oppression by the strong over the weak than can be imagined.
The solution is not in new rules or more government or antinomian autonomous zones. No, the solution must be the transformation of the individual human heart. I’m talking about total surrender of the self – with all it’s thoughts of personal entitlement and self-aggrandizement - to the Lordship of Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” He said, “God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”
Jesus taught us that if we turn around from self-absorbed entitlement-think, if we turn over our “self” to Him, if we cling to what He has done for us by dying in our place – we can be transformed from the inside out. Once upon a time we came out of our mothers screaming “me first” from our first breath, but we can be born a second time. We can have a spiritual rebirth and become agents of light and love and self-lessness in a world gone mad.
This is the good news of Jesus. So, we need to defund entitlement-think, not the cops. We need to turn to Jesus, not ourselves. Thousands of years of human suffering shows the truth – more government or appealing to our niceness or martial law does not make things better in the long run.
And only Jesus can do that – one willing heart at a time.