Entitlement. It’s the new buzz word of our society. For some it’s a good thing, standing up for oneself and one’s rights; but it can get a bit carried away, even turning ugly and aggressive.
Living in a relatively affluent part of Australia (not by any means the most affluent, but then affluence is relative), I find I am constantly bombarded with the temptation toward discontent. There are locals who feel very entitled to their lifestyle and aren’t afraid to tell me about it. They insist they have “the right” to everything from superior wi-fi to overseas travel.
Now I’m all for healthy self-esteem. A measured, accurate sense of self-esteem can give one a balanced perspective of one’s place in the world. But how is it that our sense of deservedness has increased to the point of being delusional?
Maybe it’s just me. I can’t stand the whole social “keeping up with the Jones’” impetus. And if we’re not careful, this drive can creep into our churches, the very place that is supposed to be focused on humility, serving and helping the needy. In a place meant to be Christ-centred, we can be deceived into believing that Church is all about us.
I do think we have habits of being spectators rather than servants in life, but that is for another blog on another day. Today I want to attend to the nature of genuine contentment and how we can continue to resist the allure of accumulation.
Let’s face it, having nice things around us can be very enjoyable. Purchasing things with our hard-earned money can be a rewarding experience. If you’ve ever been poor, suddenly having cash at your disposal can be a real high.
When I started earning money, fresh out of university, the first thing I went and bought was a piano (a digital one, second-hand; the only one I could afford). I know what it’s like to long for something and finally have the cash to make a dream come true.
But that’s not a sin per se. I think when we talk about contentment, we sometimes think that it means we should sell all our possessions and become wandering hippies. That’s not what I’m advocating. Sometimes we need possessions to do the work that God has asked us to do. Sometimes we need material things in order to bless others.
What I’m suggesting is that we practice contentment no matter our situation: practice contentment when we have little, knowing that we can trust our Father to provide; practice contentment when we are rich, knowing that it all belongs to God anyway.
I actually think contentment is harder to achieve in an affluent society. Sourcing material goods can become competitive and retail therapy can turn addictive. And I reckon it’s harder to pray for the things we need when we are comfortable. It’s harder when we succeed to remember that we are still fully dependent on God for everything. It’s countercultural, but there’s something to be said for the humble lifestyle.
As Paul said in Phil 4:12-13, “ I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Let that be our prayer. God, teach us to rely on You in every situation, secure in the knowledge of Your care, and content with what we have today.