Entitlement: The Tip of the Iceberg

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Imagine a deadly sickness has plagued our country. There are no outward symptoms, and the longer you were infected, the more convinced you were of your health. Yet one simple test could reveal whether or not you were sick. Would you be tested? The truth is, there is a deadly sickness plaguing our country. It is the cause of many spiritual deaths, yet many refuse to even check for this lethal enemy. What is the sickness? Pride. And the more infected you are, the less likely you are to think you have it, for pride deceives you.

In my last post, I discussed why pride is such a lethal enemy. It is an iceberg. The danger of an iceberg is not its great strength, but that its strength is hidden. Likewise, pride exists in the unseen realm of the heart. Though glimpses of it are seen in the realm of the actions, the staggering and destructive power of pride lies hidden in the shadows of the heart.

Because pride infects the motives, even the most spiritual actions, like praying, giving and serving, can be rooted entirely in arrogance and self-love.  So how can we spot an unseen enemy? Let me offer one litmus test for pride: entitlement. Entitlement is the tip of the iceberg. Every now and then it bobs above the surface, into the realm of conscious thought and actions, giving us a warning to what lies beneath.

The Connection Between Entitlement and Pride

So how is entitlement related to pride?

Entitlement is the belief that you deserve to be given something. And pride is an inflated opinion of your own importance, merit, and superiority, especially compared to others. The higher you think of yourself, the more you feel you deserve; the more prideful you are, the more you feel entitled to. They are directly related.

I was the poster child for good Christian girl on the outside, but self-assured and prideful on the inside. And honestly, I had no idea. Had you asked me what I felt I was entitled to, I likely would have given the appropriate Christian response: “I have way more than I deserve! As long as I have Jesus that is enough. Entitled? Not me.” Yet, as I entered marriage to a man who was praised while I am overlooked, entitlement and pride seethed out of me. I truly was deceived.

Most of the time, pride lies dormant in our hearts. We often live contentedly, unaware of its existence. Then, unexpectedly through certain situations, it will be drug into the light, manifesting as entitlement. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. When I was called out in my entitlement, the sheer strength of emotional aggression I felt was staggering. Suddenly, I became aware of the massive iceberg of pride in my heart.

It's difficult to expose pride in our hearts without creating those circumstances, but I hope to do that here. So before you continue reading, would you say this quick prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Unmet Expectations How do you feel when life doesn’t turn out how you expected? Single in your late twenties. Two years of trying and still not pregnant. No acceptance letter from your favorite college. Five years later and still at the same job with the same pay. Do you feel angry? Jealous? Depressed? Do you begin to distrust God or become angry toward Him? Unmet expectations are our first glimpse of entitlement: a sense that we deserve marriage, kids, more money, or a better job. A feeling that God owes it to you.

Comparison It's hard to recognize what you feel entitled to until someone else gets it. You may be content in your singleness until your younger sister gets engaged. Hey what about me?! I’m older than you! You are happy in your job, until your coworker (who has been there half the time) gets the promotion. I’ve put in more hours than her, I should have that job!  You are happily volunteering at your church, without the need of recognition, until your friend is publicly honored for her serving. How come no one noticed me?

Comparison fuels the fire of pride and brings entitlement into the light. The sense of entitlement is particularly strong when that person seems less worthy than you in some way: If so-and-so (who is way less spiritual/good/Christian than I am) is getting that much, then I certainly deserve that!” A comparative heart will always be an entitled heart.

Suffering The subtlest variety of entitlement shows up in suffering. Of course, all suffering is an occasion for grief and sorrow. But in the midst of the loss and pain, we all too often give pride a free pass to grow.

  • Your teenage child is rejecting the faith, “but I’m entitled to have saved children.”
  • Your husband struggles with porn, “but I deserve not to be sinned against, ever!”
  • You receive a cancer diagnosis, “but God owes me a long life without any physical pain.”

Please hear me, suffering is to be grieved. But it is never an excuse for a prideful, entitled heart.

What We Actually Deserve

This leads into the question, what then are we actually entitled to?

Remember, what we feel entitled to is directly related to who we think we are. So we first need an accurate view of ourselves.

The book of Romans answers very plainly who we are apart from Christ:

  • No one righteous (3:10)
  • No one seeks God (3:11)
  • No one does good (3:12)
  • No fear of God in our eyes (3:18)
  • Sinners (3:23, 5:8)
  • Ungodly and helpless (5:6)
  • Enemies of God (5:10)

In light of who we are, what then do we deserve? What can we claim as our own? Only 1 thing: wrath. Why? Because of who we are: sinners. And “the wages of sin is death. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.” (Rom 6:23, 1:18)

And in God’s immeasurable and unending grace, that is the very thing He has not given us and put on His own Son, Jesus! If we have trusted in Jesus to be our payment for sin and our righteousness before God, the very wrath we deserve no longer remains on us! (John 3:36) Every day we can know we have WAY MORE than we deserve.

How can we, who have salvation instead of wrath and grace instead of judgment, look God straight in the eye and demand He owes us more? As if God’s grace to us is because we deserve it. No. His grace is a gift. Salvation is a free gift. (Rom 6:23) And therefore, no one is entitled to these gifts.  We are simply grateful recipients. Let us not “think lightly of the riches of His kindness.” (Rom 2:4)

Here is the point: if there is anything we feel entitled to besides the wrath of God, it is an indicator of an aggrandized view of ourselves. It is very plainly and simply pride.

Our Response

For the Christian, there is one response to pride: repentance. We agree with God that He is right and we are wrong. We return to a proper stance before God, one of humility, and ask boldly for help to walk in a manner pleasing to Him.

What do you feel entitled to? Have you allowed entitlement and pride to remain in your heart? Will you choose today to humble yourself before our kind and compassionate God?

Tomorrow, we'll look at a few people in the Bible who had zero entitlement.  And not surprisingly, were praised for their humility.