Entitlement (en·ti·tle·ment, noun): the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.
Have you ever heard of anyone confessing that they have an entitlement problem? Have you ever had anyone in your small group throw in a prayer request asking for God to correct their attitude of entitlement? Let me get a little more personal. Have you ever confessed it? Me either. Entitled people don’t know they are entitled. This is why it is the silent killer of the church. It is undetected. Entitlement disguises itself in many ways. We become angry when we are overlooked for our efforts. We become frustrated when we are treated as equals with people we see ourselves above. It actually can feel like oppression. We look for new churches, friends, or jobs when we feel like we are not being compensated for what we bring to the table. We respond by demeaning, gossiping, and slandering the people who do not show us the respect we think we deserve.
I have been in church ministry for eighteen years and I have seen entitled people and entitled behavior destroy the church. It’s the silent killer of the church that creates a monstrous ripple effect in the body. There is an attitude that slowly creeps in and begins to create an underlying culture of everyone wanting it their way or wanting special treatment because of who they are and what they have done for the church. It’s the attitude of privilege and prestige that goes against the very essence of James 2. James very clearly warns against this type of attitude. However, it’s the very thing many members of the church desire, including pastors. We want to be seen, known, appreciated, and compensated. It’s in our nature to want to be noticed. The symptoms are catastrophic. Relationships are destroyed, ministries divided, and the Great Commission overlooked.
To the Shepherds
Pastors, this is a major danger zone. It comes in many forms; cheating the church of time, misusing church funds, going to the extremes to receive recognition, manipulating church members to get what you want out of them and ultimately using your position for personal gain. This is spiritual abuse. This starts to take root when you feel unappreciated, used, and mistreated. Faithful pastoring mixed with what feels like unfaithful responses from church members can leave you destructively bitter. When the seed of bitterness is planted the fruit of entitlement is produced.
Pastors, I know we have a VERY difficult calling. I know it takes us into seasons of despair. I know we can feel like we are used and unappreciated, but that gives us no right to think we are owed or deserving of any special treatment or privileges. Many of you are starving for special treatment. A starving man is a dangerous man. Are you starving for recognition? Are you longing for affirmation? Are you waiting to be complimented? Don’t fall into this trap, I’ve been there. I felt like I deserved these things. I didn’t and you don’t. Pastors, we have this role because of the grace of God (Romans 12:3). It is God that has given us this gift and calling, your skills or charisma didn’t get you here, God did. Please guard your heart and protect your actions!
To the Sheep
You are the bride. He is the groom. This is why we devote ourselves to the church. Faithful giving, faithful service, and faithful years of church membership should not give you the right to be a church bully. You do not have the green light from God to cold shoulder, manipulate, and bully the pastor, church staff, or other members when you feel like you are not getting your way. It’s possible you have the best intentions and don’t recognize the destruction it’s causing. Entitlement loves to hide behind good intentions. Don’t allow entitlement to be the ruler of your heart. Your pastor needs you to be a team player. And most importantly, the Kingdom needs you.
To the Church
Acts 2:42-47 is a great example of what the attitude of the church should be. The church was devoted to the teaching of God, they were sacrificial, generous, and God gave them favor and added to their number daily those who were being saved. What a beautiful picture! No signs of entitlement, misuse of power, or church bullying and the result is a move of God. Did you notice whose name is mentioned in these verses? The only name that is mentioned in Acts 2:42-47 is the name of the Lord. That’s it! The others were referred to as “they.” Do you know what would happen if entitlement left the church and no one cared about getting credit or recognition? Verse 47 would happen! Your church would see a move of God that could only be explained by God. The church can do far more together when a spirit of entitlement is not the ruler of our hearts. We can do this church!