Christian Exile: You Are Entitled to Nothing

 

They say a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day.  And a broken  US President (albeit a fictional one) gets it right twice in ten seconds, even if for unworthy motives.

Go on, watch it, I dare you. Listen to Frank Underwood’s sombre words:

“Let me be clear. You are entitled to nothing.  You are entitled to nothing.”

Christian exile, let me be clear.  You are entitled to nothing.  You are entitled to nothing.

In Christ you will be given everything, Romans 8:32 tells us so.  But what are you entitled to?  Nothing.

Jesus himself says so to his disciples:

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

What are unworthy servants who have only done their duty entitled to? Nothing.

What can we bring to the cross of the one who, though entitled to everything, gave it all up for our sakes?  Nothing.

A sense of entitlement has a sound.  It is not the sound of warfare, but of whinefare.  An over-preening sense that we are entitled to, if not everything, then at least a good deal of it.

And when such a sense of entitlement is threatened we throw a hissy fit.

And it worries me.  Why?  Because we are entitled to nothing.

I am not saying we cannot stand up publicly for biblical truth in our culture.  The church is a witness to the gospel and a fractured enactment of God’s future kingdom, here and now. But the culture is not the kingdom – yet.  Hebrews 12:28 tells us we are “receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken“. But we’re receiving it, not entitled to it. Why? Because we are entitled to nothing.

Our sense of entitlement derives from three decades of prosperity gospel, or an iteration of it that, like a parasite, latched onto the entitlement culture and suckled at its malevolent teat.

This false gospel tells us that it is God’s role, nay his very duty, to ensure that all of the creases in our lives are ironed out.

That our teeth are white.  That our car is shiny. That our second car is just as shiny.  That our kids are happy. That our retirement is healthy.

Such a gospel is, ironically, an impoverished gospel,  no gospel at all.

Then, bloated on this ricin-laced sweetener, we watch as the culture slides away from a Christianised morality framework.

The predictable response is an outraged sense of entitlement; a low grade social-media whine occasionally flaring to hot anger.

Yet we are entitled to nothing.  We are entitled to nothing.

Oh, I forgot.  We are entitled to something: a godless eternity, cut off from all that is good and the good God whose very presence makes it good.

We are entitled to an eternity of nothing, but here’s the good news: the God who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us, will also give us all things.  Because we are entitled to them? No. We are entitled to nothing.

Grace and entitlement cannot co-exist.  They are mutually exclusive.  Where one exists the other must give ground.

Why are “all things” not enough for us?  Why the sense of outrage when the godless culture of entitlement threatens our entitlements? Because we don’t want to wait. We want all things now, we are entitled to them now.

Yet the gospel tells us we are entitled to nothing, past, present and future.

Christian exiles, it’s going to be a tough couple of decades in the West, as the culture turns increasingly hostile towards God’s people. If we are going to thrive joyously in the Babylon of our day, indeed if we are going to be compelling witnesses to a desire nothing else can touch, then the first thing to go must be our strong sense of entitlement.  Its a strong sense indeed, but a misplaced one.

I sense that we are so afraid of losing what we believe we are owed, we are blind to the distinct possibility that this is God’s judgement for a culture that has rejected Him, and His refining process for a church that has neglected Him.

And the first step in our refining process may well be acknowledging this:

We are entitled to nothing. We are entitled to nothing.

 

 

15 Comments

  1. Our sense of Christian entitlement doesn’t just come from 3 decades of prosperity theology, it also comes from 11 or so centuries of “Christendom” (or at least Christian dominance) in Western society. We seem to expect that the privileged position the Christian faith has occupied in times past should continue without challenge, and we Christians should be respected, valued and listened to in perpetuity. Whilst it is certainly our responsibility to speak out for the righteousness of God in what is now a secular culture, the only thing we are entitled to from our stance is the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. Indeed, Jesus promised us that in the confrontation between His Kingdom and that of the world, His followers should expect nothing but persecution – and that can get very ugly! Unfortunately, unless we know the fellowship of His sufferings we can never know the power of His resurrection. The times are almost here I suspect, when we will have the perfect opportunity to discover the depth of both.

  2. I thoroughly concur, and indeed have been saying the same thing for some time in my own little corner of the church and the world.
    Thanks for your ever-thoughtful, challenging and Christ-centered blog.

  3. Thank you for this mind-bracing, heartfelt reminder!
    We are not entitled to anything …. because we didn’t build it. God, the Author of our salvation and the Creator of the universe, not only “built” it, He formed it not for us, but for Himself. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36 ESV).

  4. Thanks Steve … Paul gets it when he says ‘For I think God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men… To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labour working with our own hands. When reviled we bless, when persecuted, we endure, when slandered we entreat. We have become, are are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things’ (1 Cor 4:9,11-13) …

  5. I would have mentioned Mark 10:30, except persecutions are tossed into the mix :).
    And we are entitled to protection (1 Peter 1:5), yet knowing full well that protection does not, by any means, suggest exemption from trials.

  6. Hi John – good points. I guess being entitled to something and having a sense of entitlement are different things. Perhaps that’s what I am point out as much as anything. It’s the sense of entitlement in the current climate that is in danger of tipping over into a deep anger (already has tipped over!) and I question where that is coming from. The gospel gives us no such sense of entitlement from the world, but only from the Lord, as you rightly point out using 1Peter.

  7. I fully got your message from your post, and find it nailed with validation at the Cross. If our Lord got THAT, what should we expect? What do we have a right to expect? The Spirit of the Suffering Servant is ours.

    And your diagnosis of modern Christendom is spot-on as well, Speaking personally, I had to be driven into realization. There were times when I got hammered and found myself thinking, “…but I thought I was ALREADY suffering!” Silly me.

  8. Check out “The Entitlement Cure” by John Townsend. Haven’t read it yet but it looks interesting. An old friend used to say the only thing you are untitled to carry is a cross and the only thing you are entitled to be is a servant (or something like that). And if you think you are a leader in a Christian community you need to pick up your cross first and lead by serving. If that is not you you are not the leader God wants you to be. Easy to miss the mark. I know because I have done so too many times.

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