Last night I got home from a whirlwind 9-day trip through Europe.
I ate croissants in Paris, saw fjords in Norway, and had really good cheese in Denmark. It was magical. I was speaking at a festival in Algard, Norway, and Joe and I took the opportunity to see more of Europe while we were there.
That meant lots of traveling. Lots of waiting. Lots of sitting. It also meant lots of walking. Lots of new experiences.
And it was in the midst of this glorious trip that I started to become aware of something slimy and nasty creeping out of my heart: entitlement.
I found it in Paris — with its record-breaking heatwave and my selfish disappointment at our Airbnb having no air conditioning.
And I saw it again in Norway and Denmark, when I assumed and expected things to go my way because I thought they should.
That’s entitlement: this ugly expectation that you deserve for things to happen in the way you want them to, that you have the right to be obeyed, that your desires are the most important thing in the world.
Entitlement is a slick, sick poison that discolors our joy because it warps our view of reality. It glazes our eyes with our own subjective self-focus and, in so doing, we miss out on great things.
When we think about it, entitlement is pretty ridiculous. Because what are we, as humans, really entitled to? Nothing. Except condemnation, that is. But our grossly inflated egos tell a different story. They say we are good. No, we are perfect. We are worthy and wonderful and deserve every good thing.
But the gospel has a different message.
It says we are only entitled to death. We’re literally not even entitled to our next breath. That is a gift from God. Everything is a gift from God.
The sunshine, or the rain. The ability to walk. The ability to see. Money to eat at restaurants… even if it’s not your favorite restaurant. Beds to sleep in… even if they’re not as comfy as your bed at home. Clothes to wear… even if they aren’t as cute as your friend’s wardrobe.
On one of my plane rides this past week, I started reading a book by Kristen Welch called Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World.
Yes, it’s a book about parenting but it’s applicable to any human. And this week, I needed that book.
I needed to see entitlement for what it is: a ruthless sin so common in our culture the we often don’t even realize we’re committing it. And I needed to have my eyes opened to the antidote: gratitude.
Gratitude for life and breath and air and travel and home and food and relationships. This is the antidote: being grateful for all and expectant of nothing. You accept what you’re given with glad hands and an open heart.
You don’t get annoyed when you don’t have air conditioning because you’re grateful for a clean place to sleep.
You don’t get upset when your waiter brings you chicken instead of fish because you’re grateful for food and the mighty privilege of going to a restaurant.
You don’t melt down when your schedule changes because you’re grateful for the opportunity to be alive and experience what God has for you.
Gratitude crushes entitlement.
It grabs you by the hand and pulls you toward joy and peace and fullness and worship, because you are just so thankful to God for it all.
You recognize that you’re entitled to death but you’re grateful because he brought you back to life. He gave you a thousand mercies that you are not entitled to. He gave you a million blessings and a billion gifts that you never deserved. And every day, he heaps more of these mercies and blessings and gifts upon you.
Here I need to preach to myself: don’t act like you’re entitled to these gifts and blessings. There’s a reason it’s called mercy. Instead, be grateful.
Make the theme of your life gratitude. Kill the weeds of entitlement that spring up. And I promise: you will be so, so, so much happier for it.