Thanksgiving has an enemy, at least in this culture. And it’s not necessarily the invasive consumer noise that begins its assault the day the Halloween candy hits the half-price bin–although that’s a sure symptom.
I flipped through a couple of magazines looking for signs of this enemy, and I found them in dozens of ads. Headlines and copy made bold claims. “You deserve a legendary watch.” “A bank that puts you first.” “Expect more.”
Deserve. Put me first. Expectations. The core message: you are entitled.
Whether the culture drives the advertising or the advertising drives culture, the truth is, we have a pretty strong, well-developed sense of entitlement.
Entitlement is the enemy of thanksgiving.
It reminds me of a scene in the classic Jimmy Stewart movie, Shenandoah. Stewart plays widower Charlie Anderson and in one scene, with his family seated around the table, he says grace over the meal.
“Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cook the harvest. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat, amen.”
Charlie and his family worked hard. They deserved that harvest. We work hard, too. Doesn’t that entitle us to … something?
Entitlement is a belief that we deserve certain privileges. It is connected to an idea that we have to protect our rights, that we have to defend ourselves, that we must take action to secure what is ours. I know we’d argue that this isn’t the case, that we’re humble and thankful, but we often fall into a quid pro quo with God. If I give to the missionaries, I should get my prayers answered. If I serve on that committee, God should respond by giving me that raise I asked Him about.
Not only that, consider how quickly bitterness arises if God doesn’t hold up His end. How often do we accuse Him of slighting us, of not hearing us, or of being unfair? Because we didn’t get what we wanted. (What we thought we deserved. What we were sure we had earned.)
More often than we’d like toot admit. And just so we’re clear, by “we,” I mean me.
Grace is the opposite of entitlement.
God relates to us through grace not entitlement. It’s a good thing that He does. You see, when we are counting up what we deserve, we measure ourselves against the rest of the imperfect, broken, fallen folks around us. On that scale, we can at least break into the top half. But that’s not the scale.
The real measure is God’s sinless, perfect holiness, and we can never, ever measure up on that scale. Dealing with us based on what we deserve, what we’ve earned, means only one thing: judgment. God loves us far too much for that. In His great love, through His great grace, not only does He stay judgment, but we don’t have to worry that we’ll be passed over or left out.
Grace. Not entitlement. That is something to be thankful for.
Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32
(I won’t be posting next Thursday. Have a blessed time of celebrating God’s goodness with your loved ones.)