Do entitled Christians make you want to avoid church? What if you go to church to serve God. And you run into a bunch of people who feel like they’re entitled to have the church serve them? Does that turn you off? Or does it make you want to be like them?
It doesn’t feel like serving and entitlement should be used together in this context.
Sure, there are “entitlements”, like welfare for poor people. But that’s completely different from what we’re looking at here.
God has no need for that kind of entitlement.
And He makes no promise of any entitlement of that kind to us.
Therefore, it seems there’s no reason anyone at a Christian church should have any kind of entitled feeling from the church.
There are even more reasons why feelings of entitlement don’t belong in church. For instance, there’s love. We’ll get into that as we go along.
What kind of entitlement are we talking about here?
Just to be sure we’re all on the same page of the same book, let’s look at the ways “entitled” is used.
- called by the title indicated:
- In my paper so entitled, I explore the idea that “Robust Democracy Is National Security.”
having a right or legitimate claim to something:
The inheritance passes to the legally entitled heir.
assuming or acting as though one has an innate right or claim to wealth, success, recognition, etc.:
I was so entitled and self-centered that I never noticed the injustices around me.
- called by the title indicated:
We’re talking about the last one. Someone who’s self-centered, and pretty much oblivious as to what’s going on around them.
Are Christians supposed to give or take?
I started to type the heading as: Are we supposed to give or take at church? But that’s not right. This is about Christians. And it’s not about church. Not only while we’re at church, that is. For a Christian, this is about our entire life.
A good place to start is this:
22:34-40 pp — Mk 12:28-31
Mt 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Mt 22:37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind
This means love God with everything we are.
Love your neighbor as yourself
And this is love everybody. Further, every Christian should know, and live like, neighbor refers to everyone. Not just friends. Not just the people who live near us. Everyone is our neighbor. Even people we don’t know. And even people we hate.
I don’t see any taking in there. It’s all about giving. Giving to God. And giving to our neighbors, with neighbor defined as Jesus did.
Will entitled Christians “die to self”?
We just looked at how Christians should be willing to give everything we are. Our love, soul, and mind should be used to love God. And we should love our neighbors.
But what about ourselves? What about the things we want?
As you might expect, and/or fear, Jesus spoke to that as well. The timing of what we’re about to read can’t be coincidence. As Jesus is telling His disciples that He’s going to suffer and die, He also tells us we must “die to self”.
16:21-28 pp — Mk 8:31—9:1; Lk 9:22-27
Mt 16:21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
As I said, It can’t be coincidence that Jesus begins by telling His disciples about His coming suffering and death. He did include being brought back to life on the third day, but it seems they didn’t even accept the death part, alone recognize the resurrection statement included after it.
But it’s important. It was for Jesus, it was for the disciples, and it is for us Christians today as well.
Mt 16:22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Of course, it’s Peter who tells Jesus that’s not going to happen. Beyond the obvious fact that it did happen, there’s another issue here. Jesus is about to make reference to it.
Mt 16:23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Jesus’ response seems a bit much, calling Jesus Satan. But the next statement gives a clue as to why He did it.
Jesus had to die, to pay for our sins.
And He had to be resurrected, brought back to life, otherwise everything was pointless. Where’s the value of dying for our sins if He dies as well? And if Jesus isn’t resurrected after His death, then we won’t be either. It would be an exercise in futility. And as Paul pointed out, there’d be no reason for our faith. See the passage The Resurrection of the Dead to read what Paul wrote. There’s a link at the end of it to bring you back here after you read it. Or, you can wait, and it’ll be at the end.
The thing is, Peter is trying, or hoping, to get in the way of what must happen in order for Jesus to go through the things He’s talking about.
On top of that, Peter is getting in the way of the disciples understanding what’s happening. Of course, God knew that was going to happen, and things proceed.
However, if we don’t focus n the things Jesus tells us, we may not get it either. And what Jesus is about to say is of the utmost importance. It could even be the difference between living a life patterned after Jesus’ teachings, or feeling entitled. The first option will lead to eternity with Jesus. The second will lead us to eternity with Satan. So yeah, it’s a big deal.
So, here’s what Jesus said about dying to self.
Mt 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Jesus tells us, plain enough, that if we want to follow Him then we must deny himself (ourself) and take up his (our) cross and follow me (Him).
Since we have to take up our cross, that’s a huge clue that it’s not going to be easy. We must “kill” a portion of ourselves. Abandon the goals and aspirations we had before becoming a Christian, if Jesus asks us to. And instead, do the things He wants.
It really isn’t easy. But then, it is worthwhile. Although, it may take quite some time for us to realize it. I spent 36 years in the IT industry. The last six were spent overseeing the IT infrastructure at a large university. I used to think I was doing good stuff. Accomplished a lot.
Then, I began to wonder. Was it really worth it?
Then, thanks to some political fallout above me, I ended up in a situation where it was clear the best thing to do was to retire early. I did ask God, how can I save my job? He made it abundantly clear that it was time to retire. I mean like – shaking car clear. I was praying at a stop light. The car at least felt like it was shaking, from an accident or earthquake. But there wasn’t either of those things. Then I could feel, rather than hear, His words. It was time to go, because He had something better for me.
Part of what God has for me was writing, like here. Part was teaching at church. Totally changed things. And eventually I realized that this was way more rewarding than anything I’d done at work. And much less stressful. Even though some of what I wrote about was going through four surgeries and now through radiation treatment for cancer.
It was totally worth it. Certainly for the next life. But even in this one.
Will entitled Christians look at themselves as living sacrifices?
I’m going to include the next passage, so we can go through it and explain a bit.
Ro 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
No, this isn’t physical sacrificing. Not offering up people on burning fire or anything like that.
This is the stuff we just looked at. Sacrificing our original wants and desires. Changing our mindset to want the things that are pleasing to God. Something that involves physical urges. Sometimes mental. Maybe career changes.
The bottom line, is to align our will with God’s. To want the things He wants for us.
After we spend much of our lives looking out for ourselves, Ro 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
After we spend so much of our lives looking out for ourselves first, it’s hard to change. When we’re used to being the one people look to for answers and solutions, it’s hard to look to God instead of ourselves.
If we want to be the brain, as in Paul’s example, it’s hard to be the little toe. I’ll tell you something though. I once broke four toes – two on each foot. It’s incredibly hard to walk with broken toes. Even harder when they’re cut up and scabs won’t form because they move so much. The life of a toe isn’t necessarily unimportant. Or boring. It can be very important. And no matter what, it will be rewarding.
But none of that makes it any easier for us to willingly want to step out and make that change God’s asking for.
Will entitled Christians be encouraging?
OK, we’re getting to the heart of the matter now. One of the reasons for going to church is to be part of a Christian community/ A place where we help each other. Encourage each other to stay on that narrow path that Jesus tells us to follow. But, will entitled Christians be encouraging? Or are they more likely to just turn us off? Or maybe even take us off that path.
Let’s take a look at one more passage from Paul.
As the footing of each page shows, my default translation is the NIV. That’s because it’s so widely read and used as the basis for many foreign language translations that use side-by-side English and a second language.
The words and the headings are from the 1984 version. If you have the newer 2010 translation, it not only has some different words, but even different headings. It’s OK – it won’t change what we’re looking at here.
This first portion is about believers who died.
1Th 4:13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
Here’s what’s going on at the time.
Bereavement is a very poignant human experience. However firm our Christian faith may be, the loss of a close relative or friend causes a profound emotional shock. To lose a loved one is to lose a part of oneself. It calls for radical and painful adjustments, which may take many months. Dr Leighton Ford, the Canadian evangelist and mission leader, put it well when his elder son Sandy died in 1982 at the age of 21. ‘The struggle is to bring our faith and our emotions together’, he wrote.
Bereavement also occasions anguished questions about those who have died. What has happened to them? Are they all right? Shall we see them again? Such questions arise partly from a natural curiosity, partly from Christian concern for the dead, and partly because their death reminds us of our own mortality and undermines our security. In addition, the Thessalonians had a theological question to put to Paul. 1Stott, J. R. W. (1994). The message of Thessalonians: the gospel & the end of time (pp. 92–93). InterVarsity Press.
Both teaching and encouragement are needed in this situation. The question then is this – would an entitled Christian be willing or able to do either of these? Someone who’s primarily focused on themselves might turn any discussion towards themselves. And talk about themselves.
However, what’s really needed is compassion, patient teaching, listening, and empathy. These aren’t exactly words associated with self-centered people.
Let’s keep going. Another scenario. More teaching. More encouraging.
1Th 5:1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
1Th 5:4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
These are just two examples. Life is full of others. And Christian community is where we look to get the support we need. And to give others the support they need. It works both ways. It’s not a one way thing, where we take, take take. Or where we only care about ourselves.
Conclusion – Do entitled Christians make you want to avoid church?
Jesus really gave us that message when His disciples asked Him which of them will be the greatest.
9:46-48 pp — Mt 18:1-5
9:46-50 pp — Mk 9:33-40
Lk 9:46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”
Lk 9:49 “Master,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”
Lk 9:50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”
That’s probably too much to ask of entitled person, let alone an entitled Christian. That is, too much to ask until they truly decide to follow Jesus.
So, if you go to a church and encounter an entitled Christian, there are some choices. One choice might to be leave. However, you could also maybe try to help them to become a serving Christian. Find another group to join. Hang in there for a while, become part of the general community, and start a new group.
The thing is, don’t just leave Christianity because of encounters with entitled Christians. After all, none of us was born a fully complete follower of Jesus. It is a process. It takes time. Support. Encouragement. And those things all come from others who are further along in their journey of faith.
Of course, if you’re new to being a Christian, you’ll naturally take more than you give to the community. But, having said that, we should all go in willing to give back when we can.
The series on things that make you want to avoid church is based on 10 Ways You May Be Destroying the Church from crosswalk.com. Of course, from the opposite point of view – ways Christians may be making people avoid church.
The resurrection of the dead, where Paul explains the importance of Jesus being raised from the dead.
1Co 15:12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
1Co 15:20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
1Co 15:29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.
Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay
- 1Stott, J. R. W. (1994). The message of Thessalonians: the gospel & the end of time (pp. 92–93). InterVarsity Press.