The Self-Righteous Green-Eyed Monster in the Church

Photo by mharrsch - Roman_throne_LosAngeles_County_Museum_California

Anger, frustration, the shaking of the fist, disillusionment, tears, questions of why. . .

“You deserve all that God has for you!” “Come BOLDLY to the throne of grace and don’t hold back!” “God gives good things to His children!” “Be specific with God! Want that car? How many seats and features? What about that pool? That house with the extra bedroom and den for the guests.”

What are the similarities between the first line, and the second paragraph above?  What is the relationship between those two sets of statements and feelings?  These thoughts began coming to me as I was trying to get to sleep last night.  I have a friend who has been through much in her lifetime.  She struggles in her perception of God and yet longs for the kind of relationship God has given me.  It took me a bit to figure out the differences in our spiritual stories, because we don’t get together too often as of yet.  But one thing stood out to me over the weekend, and I realize this is a bigger issue in the Church than just for those who have grown up as my friend has.

The first part of this difference between us, is attitude.  The attitude I am about to mention is one that I occasionally slip into myself (which is probably why I saw it so clearly), so I’m not talking down to anyone here, this is an observation that must be addressed.  It is an observation that I have to address in my own life from time to time and being able to address it requires a different attitude.

Photo by mharrsch - Roman_throne_LosAngeles_County_Museum_CaliforniaThe attitude I speak of is one of entitlement.  This is the belief that I deserve this or that from life or God or someone else or a given circumstance or situation.  In the Church, this belief stems from the me-first gospel being preached in Western civilizations that says God is here to serve us, serve our needs, and ensure that we live the abundant life here on earth.  The definition of abundance generally translates into material goods, lots of friends, and a fat bank account.

This attitude of entitlement puts me on the throne of my life, and places God squarely in the role of servant.  Now one could argue that Christ did assume the role of servant when He washed the disciples’ feet, and He did say that he who wants to be great in the Kingdom will be the servant of all.  But this is where the understanding takes a drastic turn for the worse.  Rather than seeing what Christ did as an example we are to follow in serving others, we treat God as less than He is, and demand that He serve us!

Pride accompanies entitlement and actually feeds it.  Pride is the one saying, “I deserve this!”  The exhortation to boldly come before the throne of grace to find help in time of need, is not meant to fuel this selfish pride, but in today’s teachings, that’s exactly what it does.  Instead of coming to God boldly the way children will approach a parent, we are taught to come boldly to God knowing exactly who we are and having our list in hand, expecting that God will run down that list at our beck and call.

The truth is, God’s idea of abundance and our idea are drastically worlds apart!  God’s idea is abundance of the heart, which may or may not come with abundance in the bank account or abundance of material wealth and possessions.  Abundance of the heart is a Christ-like heart that serves and ministers to others no matter how much difficulty life may throw at them.

Secondly, what we deserve and what we receive are entirely at the mercy of God’s grace.  We deserve hell.  We deserve death.  We deserve punishment.  But thanks to God’s grace lived out through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are offered eternal life, we are offered heaven, and we are spared eternal punishment.  We don’t deserve to live the good life.  We don’t deserve God’s love and affection for us.  We don’t deserve His provision for our needs.  But many in the Christian world are preaching that we do.

The attitude required to combat that selfish, prideful sense of entitlement, is one of humble gratitude.  Gratitude combined with an attitude of humility will accept what God gives without demand.  Humility admits that we are nothing compared to God, and gratitude shows God how much we appreciate all He’s chosen to do on our behalf.  When we truly realize that outside of Christ, we deserve nothing, it is possible to truly appreciate life lived in Christ.  When we realize we don’t deserve the kindnesses and generosity of God and those He sends our way, we appreciate His efforts all the more.  When we realize that instead of tossing us in the furnace, He’s chosen to wrap His arms around us and call us His children, we learn to accept and rest in that embrace.

God doesn’t have to give us anything. God doesn’t have to do anything for us.  God is not held to any contract that stipulates Him answering our every prayer to our satisfaction.  God does what He does because He loves us more than we will ever know.  If we could get a glimpse of God’s heart, not only would it humble us, not only would it fill us with an intense sense of gratitude, but it would give us a greater understanding of how and why He does what He does.

We must be careful when learning who we are in Christ, that we don’t develop an unhealthy sense of entitlement.  Even the authority we wield against the enemy of our souls comes solely from Jesus Christ Himself and His shed Blood.  There is no room for us to come to Christ with a heavy dose of entitlement.  God can’t work with that.  We must come to Him humbly, thanking Him for what He’s done for us, thanking Him for who He is and why He does things for us to begin with.  We must accept that He is God and we are not.  Only then can we begin to learn the heart and mind of God and learn to approach Him with the reverence and respect of one who has been rescued to the rescuer, of the wife to the husband, of the child to the parent. . .

God is good.  All the time.  Even when we don’t get what we think we deserve.

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