The Subtle Power of Entitlement

October 23, 2012

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As a believer, a dangerous belief lurks nearby desiring to take root in our hearts.

It’s subtle. It creeps in and begins to affect our emotions and our thoughts.

Entitlement.

Phrases which start with “I” and include verbs like “deserve”, “am owed”, “expect”, and more.

This false belief rears its head in many ways, mostly subtle, but poisonous.

It’s a cancer

I want to discuss this in the context of missions, but it applies to all believers.

Here are 6 Signs of Missionary Entitlement. 

1. I’m obeying, so God must….
I’ve seen people use missions as an attempt to earn the favor of God, or worse manipulate Him to get what they want. Too many missionaries are serving out of guilt or a need to feel worthy.

In our prayers we approach God with an attitude which says he owes us. After all, He is very aware of the sacrifices we are making.

When we don’t get what we want, it is easy to slip into a bargaining session with God in an attempt to prove our worthiness.

Don’t try to manipulate God.

2. Frustration in relationship with the local church
A missionaries relationship with the local church gets complicated. A warning sign comes when we slip into deep frustration. Some symptoms would be statements like:

“They should just trust me and believe in me”
“I don’t know why they don’t take missions seriously”
“How can they be so focused on buildings”

The list could go on, but you get the picture. Rather than a partnership, the relationship turns into an impersonal target for venting.

In reality, missionaries sent out from a local church are their employees. They should ask hard questions, even evaluating how money they contribute is used. On a church’s side this is good stewardship.

Would we respond to this type of inquiry as if it is an accusation?

3. Lack of gratitude toward donors or supporters
Support raising is the bane of every missionary. I don’t meet many who enjoy it.

But entitlement appears in weariness to communicate with those who have already partnered to us. Really at it root, it is a lack of gratitude.

I know life gets busy…

If communicating with those who are putting their hard-earned money towards our projects is a burden, we are on the fast track towards entitlement.

entitlement

by Sergio Montijano on Flckr.

4. Belief missions is a higher calling
Part of the cancerous belief reveals itself when missions (or any ministry) becomes more spiritual than other jobs. Spirituality comes from obeying, not full-time ministry.

What we are doing in missions or ministry does not place us closer to the heart of God than those saints working in “traditional” vocations.

A belief in this is called pride in Scripture.

5. Laziness

Simply put: Work hard.

Be worthy of the support you receive.

Have a vision.

Don’t just report to your missions committee with spiritual sounding phrases like “I’m waiting for God to show me the next step.”  Come in with a plan. Life changes and so do plans. But make sure you have one!

Entitlement allows people to think they can coast.
Entitlement breeds permission to ride the coattails of vision long accomplished.

6. Spending out of proportion to our income
I meet many missionaries who feel entitled to live at a certain standard of living. Their income cannot support it, but it is easy to feel “suffering for the Lord” qualifies us to be entitled to certain amenities or lifestyles.

This is where the mortgage crisis began. It was built on the foundation of entitlement.

There is a very strange passage in Leviticus which required priests not to eat the fat in the Old Testament sacrifices. “All fat is the Lord’s.” (Lev. 3:16)

A friend shared a message which showed this command as protection against entitlement. The fat is what makes the meat taste the best! The priests were prohibited from taking the best cuts of meat for themselves, thinking their role in the nation was more privileged. This is also why they were not allowed to own land.

Whether you are a missionary or an “ordinary” church goer, beware of the subtle power of entitlement.

Lest you think I am being too hard the missionaries, I analyze the issue of a local church’s relationship to their missionaries in this post.

In the meantime, what other areas do we claim a sense of entitlement as believers? What do we subconsciously believe God owes us? 

Enjoyed this post? take a look at 3 Deadly Mistakes in Missions (and Life).

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God