by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman
The other day, my friend and I were comparing notes on grandparenting. We agreed that being grandmothers can be a journey through uncharted waters. My friend’s adolescent grandson was driving her a little crazy with his attitude that day. Any time she would refuse him what we wanted, he would respond in anger. “The entitlement!” she wrote me. She then assured me: “We don’t respond well to entitlement.”
That got me thinking. Is a child’s entitlement a result of bad parenting or grandparenting? Are we causing this obnoxious trait in our children by giving them too much? Or is there something deeper happening?
To answer that question, we have to go all the way back to the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve were approached by the serpent, encouraging entitlement was in his plan. Both humans knew that God had made it clear that they could eat from any tree in the garden but one: “For in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17 NASB).
Notice Satan’s tactics: he first cast doubt on the truth of God’s words. “You will not surely die!” he assured them. Then he went after the goodness of God. “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” he said. (Genesis 3:5 NASB) He’s keeping you back because He wants to remain superior to you. His motives are vain and selfish. He’s not for you. He’s for Himself.
Eve “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise…” and took the bait. So did Adam. And the sinful nature of future humankind was determined.
Why did Eve do it? Every other tree had been generously provided. Why did she have to have the one thing that was denied her? I think it goes back to Satan’s challenge; his suggestion that God was not truthful or truly good. She should have more. She deserved more.
Of course, they didn’t consider the other side of the coin before taking that plunge: that maybe God was protecting them from something, like a life of toil and pain. That their denial of the goodness of God would taint everything, from the physical world to their relationships with God and with each other. That in His prohibition, He truly was being good.
Entitlement is a dangerous thing. One of the ten commandments is “you shall not covet.” I’ve heard people say that the last five commandments (Exodus 20:12-17) are horizontal, governing human to human interaction. They do, but this one is more than that. To covet is to want what you do not have. Who provides what we have? God. Feeling entitled is a statement to God: I deserve more. You have refused me what I need. You are lacking in your goodness.
The opposite of entitlement is contentment. Contentment does not depend on circumstances, material possessions, or successes in life. Contentment is a by-product of something bigger: trust in the God who provides every good thing. Trust in a God who is absolutely good.
Paul wrote, “Not that I speak from want, but I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am…” What was Paul’s secret to living in contentment? “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely…dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8 NASB). If there was a list of what Paul felt would fit that bill, God would have been right at the top.
When entitlement poisons our heart and mind, we already have the antidote. We need to dwell on God’s goodness. Had Adam and Eve taken a minute to think about how good God had already been to them, how every good thing had come from His abundant generosity and grace, I’m pretty sure they would have doubted that conniving snake. What Satan was saying was in direct conflict with anything they already knew about God. It would have been a no-brainer to walk away.
Let’s make sure our children and grandchildren understand that everything they have has come from God, including parents who say no for a reason. Let’s help them to understand there are bigger, more important things in life than getting to play video games all day or freedom to roam at will. Encourage them about His goodness, which He limits only to grow us in our trust in Him.
Because God is good…all the time.
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment, for we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 NASB
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
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Join the conversation: Do you ever struggle with entitlement?