The Entitlement Myth, Pt 2

Okay then, let’s continue with The D.A. Chronicles

I know what I want
I know what I need
I want a miracle
I know what I need
I know what I want, I know what I need, give me
(A new car!)

I’m one of the king’s kids (He wants a blessing)
I’m one of the king’s kids (He wants a blessing)
I do deserve the best (Keep on confessing)
The very, very, very, very Best
I’m one of the king’s kids
I deserve the best, I want
(A new car!)

– Terry Taylor, “New Car!”

From Doppelganger, the 2nd in Daniel Amos’ The Alarma! Chronicles series of albums, New Car! addresses one of the more irritating aspects of American Pop Christianity, this concept that we are entitled, by virtue of our salvation, to a superlative life on this Earth. We’re the King’s Kids. Our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills. God’s not broke. And so it goes…

How about this one:

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Luke 9:57,58

So, is this negative confession? Jesus also said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” See? There you have it, abundance! Of course, to anyone who’s studied John, you can easily see how Jesus was constantly talking about the spiritual in contrast to the Jews’ focus on the physical.

This “gimme” Christianity is essentially bad Pentecostal theology (which is a somewhat redundant phrase) combined with American materialism, consumerism and individualism. This attitude is not unique to America, by any means; the British Imperialism of the 19th Century comes to mind. Regardless of origins, it’s a problem.

This sense of Christian entitlement is prevalent in our current church system; we have a whole class of “professional” Christians, who believe that by the sheer nature of their title, they deserve to be supported by the church. This, by the way, is not Biblical; that is, if you read the New Testament without filters. Many times I have been quoted the “double honor” verse in support of paid, professional Christians. Considering that I have often worked 20 hours a week or more as an unpaid “lay” Christian, my response is, “so what’s 2 times zero?”

“A worker is worthy of his wage.” Well, cool! Considering that most churches couldn’t exist without dozens of volunteers, many of them making way less than the pastoral staff, let’s do something about that!

I am not being facetious. I am also not reacting out of a “sour grapes” mentality. While I was on the board of one church (and also putting in many, many hours a week in various roles), I actually drafted a policy which prevented me from getting paid. I know a former well-known pastor, who was for a time the head of a very large denomination, who after stepping down from that position told me that he could no longer Biblically support being a paid pastor, and had to look for “alternative” employment. I am not alone in my thinking.

This sense of entitlement has also worked its way into the missions organizations, to the point where anyone who decides to go on a missions “vacation” expects others to pay their way. If you are like me, you may get several of these requests for support a year. Now, I think many of these excursions are totally valid; however, the mentality that says, “I’m going to tour a mission field so you should give me money” is, I think, defective. Consider Paul’s attitude, who chose not to be a burden to the church.

(Now, I have diverted slightly from a pure discussion of the Christian entitlement mentality, but I’ll deal with that next time. I figure, let’s start at the top and work down.)

What I am not saying

Before I end this post, let me offer this: I am not saying that it is wrong to pay a pastor, a missionary, or some other “ministry” position. It is the philosophy behind it that I am challenging.

I have a lot more to say, so tune in for next time where I discuss how these systems actually abuse those they intend to support.

3 thoughts on “The Entitlement Myth, Pt 2”

  1. High five, Alden. I know what you mean. I have been exposed to most of the teachings out there, and ya know, it just doesn’t seem to line up with often ignored other Scriptures, not to mention the character of Christ. Speaking of filters, we should “interpret” His Word, through the perspective of who He is. Did Jesus feel entitled? He, of all, being the Son of God, could have, but He chose to lay it all down and humble himself, learning obedience by what He suffered. As the Master goes, so goes His servants.

  2. That, of course is a very interesting passage. First, it should be noted that the Greek word used which is translated “living” is zoee, usually translated to mean actual “life” than “wage” or something similar. So, a more strict translation should read, “they that preach the gospel should receive life from (or, perhaps be made alive by) the gospel. But, the immediate context obviously refers to some kind of material benefit.

    In context, however, with the apparent reference to Matt. 10:10 and O.T and Jewish tradition, this verse does support financial (or at least food & lodging) support for “preachers of the gospel” while they are preaching the gospel; but not necessarily a full-time paid position.

    Perhaps “preaching the gospel” should be defined?

  3. You may have to define what you mean by entitlement.

    In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 9) he not only claims that “those who preach the gospel SHOULD receive their living from the gospel” but that it is their “right” to do so (though one he has chosen not to use). This sounds a lot like entitlement to me.

    Perhaps you are speaking of abusive attitudes or something else, but Paul’s language unequivocably establishes the legitimacy of a “paid” ministry position in that material compensation is directly linked to gospel service.

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