Entitlement culture teaches that we deserve to have things given to us and that we should have special privileges. Those enmeshed in entitlement culture believe strongly that the whole world revolves around their perceived rights, needs, and wants. Its rallying cries are “my way,” “my rights,” and “I deserve.” Within American society certain rights are acknowledged as God-given and inalienable. But the entitlement culture takes it further, presuming rights that are neither divinely granted nor constitutionally guaranteed.
Often, entitlement culture is associated with the younger generation and manifests itself in demands to get something for nothing—education, health care, wages, advancements, etc. But those with a feeling of entitlement—that the world somehow “owes” them—can be older, as well. Many middle-aged and older people feel entitled to a comfortable life, a lack of pain, a freedom from difficulty of all kinds. Everyone likes the idea of being pampered. It’s when we start demanding perks and comforts as a “right” or when we try to circumvent the principle of earning privileges that we succumb to the entitlement culture.
Some people in the Bible had a sense of entitlement. Many Jews in Jesus’ day had an idea that they were entitled to God’s blessings by virtue of the very fact they were Jews—a mentality that John the Baptist countered (Matthew 3:9). The Pharisees believed they deserved public places of honor at dinners and in the synagogues (see Matthew 23:6; Luke 20:46). They craved attention and titles of honor such as “Rabbi” (Matthew 23:7; Mark 12:38). They loved to be praised by men for their good deeds and strict adherence to the law (Matthew 23:5; Luke 18:11; John 12:43). Self-sacrifice and self-denial were not part of the Pharisees’ nature. Even when they fasted, they made sure others knew it so that they could be praised for their act of reverence (Matthew 6:16). So entitlement culture is not new.
The Bible does not address entitlement culture by that name, of course, but it clearly opposes the idea of a culture of entitlement. Instead of focusing people on their “rights” or encouraging them to demand something for nothing, the Bible teaches the value of hard work and the principle of reaping and sowing (Proverbs 1:31; 10:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). In addition, Scripture teaches a sacrificial lifestyle of following Christ: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24). Instead of self-centeredness and privilege, the Bible teaches love of God and others (Mark 12:30–31). Christians are not “entitled” to much in this world; they have died to self and are crucified with Christ, which means we no longer live for ourselves (Galatians 2:20). Instead of living with an “I-focus,” we are called to live with a “Jesus-focus.” “He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15, HCSB).
Jesus is our model in not giving in to a sense of entitlement: “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6–8, NLT). In stark contrast to today’s entitlement culture, Jesus gave up His divine rights and privileges—and His own life—so that we could have eternal life (see John 3:16 and Romans 5:8).
Christians eschew entitlement culture, preferring to honor God and “work hard with our own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:12). We avoid selfishness and refuse to pursue sinful pleasures. We understand that, in ourselves, all we are truly “entitled” to is a one-way ticket to hell with no offer of grace (see Romans 3:23; 6:23). To the eternal praise of God, we have been redeemed, “not with perishable things such as silver or gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18–19). We have been given “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (verse 4), not because we are entitled to it, but because God is merciful and gracious.