Entitlement, Recompense and Grace
I recently got a new car which is something I never imagined would happen. Of course it came with the stress of a payment and higher insurance as well as saying goodbye to a very reliable vehicle that was Jim’s car (I hope it will be sold soon). It is one more step away from our marriage partnership, which is hard but is still my reality. I am grateful for so much in regard to the whole event.Anyway, after getting the car I was greeted by many with the resounding response that I somehow deserved a new car. I am confident that it is no one’s intention, but I am not comfortable with that phrase, let alone responding to it. . I have been pondering why and I am not sure if I am being overly picky or sensitive, but I have come up with some thoughts as to why it irritates me.
The very idea that we can earn anything physical based on who we are is quite absurd. Yes, of course, there is a way we earn a reward, a salary, or punishment based on our behaviors; the Bible calls it recompense. But, how is it that something as concrete as a car is something I deserve because I am ______ (fill in the blank)?
I really do not want what I deserve. I deserve no hope or forgiveness, no answers to impossible questions, let alone a new car or great paying job. To go even further into the thought, I really do not want equitability either because that means I would have a lot less of everything that I already have been given. I did not choose to grow up in the time and culture I did any more than the poorest of poor in the heart of some war-torn country. How can I even consider being more deserving based on such a random result over which I had no control nor earned any merit. Additionally, I think the response of “deserving something” pushes one to some works-based lifestyle and leads to dissatisfaction with life in general, or even worse, a victim mentality when I don’t get what I think I am owed. The first step to contentment is a grateful heart and living with hope instead of expectation.
It feels like entitlement. And I hate that. I do not deserve a car anymore than I deserve anything. I never want to feel I am owed anything from an explanation to a fair shake to equality etc.
Life isn’t fair; fairness is not the same thing as equality. I guess I would rather operate from a needs-based posture than from a posture of recompense and equality. So for me the question that leads to higher imagination and resources is based on what one needs and not on what one deserves.
These words may be semantics, and yet what tends to be captured in words such as rights or fairness is not the clearest way to articulate what is of deep value to me; it leaves out what I know best or have ownership of, which is my needs and experience. When I think in terms of what people need rather than what they deserve I feel like there is a more personal connection and I am able to give them the chance to be really heard. Further, looking at people based on what they need creates the possibility of a world that is full of mercy and grace rather than one of obligation and equitability. I don’t know about you but I would rather live with an attitude of wanting to meet people’s needs not because they deserve it nor because they have earned it, but simply because those needs exist and I am able to make their life better.
I really do not want what I deserve. I deserve no hope, no answers to impossible questions and I really do not want equitability either because that means I would have a lot less of everything. Additionally, I think the response pushes one to some works-based lifestyle and leads to dissatisfaction. The first step to contentment is a grateful heart and living with hope instead of expectation.
Where did we get this impression that we deserve anything? I know that McDonalds wants us to think that we deserve a break today; teachers struggle with students and parents who think that just because they show up they deserve a good grade coaches are pressured to play all the teammates because they bought the uniform and came to practice and Jim often spoke of the collegians who think that because they are paying for a private tuition they deserve a good GPA. How does one’s existence on this earth entitle a person to all kinds of benefits? I did nothing to deserve such blessings. When did we become the exception to deserve not to be subjected to the unpleasant surprises in life? I think that the sense of entitlement and the idea that somehow I deserve even more than what I already have is the most destructive impact on my ability to be thankful for the things I have been given. It kills contentment.
I would even venture to suggest that the idea that our over-emphasis on discovering and developing our passion and calling can be a deterrent to learning the real lesson; calling is not about passion but rather it is a commitment to glorify God in whatever situation we find ourselves. God is not as concerned with our circumstances as he is with our character. By way of an obvious example, we could rejoice in the middle of Jim’s cancer journey and still choose to trust and count our blessings, albeit with much effort at times.
Bonhoffer wrote, “Bravely take hold of the real, not dallying now with what might be. Not in the flight of ideas but only in action is freedom. Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of the living.”