The Danger of Entitlement

Mark 10:45

Entitlement (I Deserve This…)

For centuries, theologians and philosophers have tried to explain why a religious king, who had everything he could want, would have a “one night stand” with his neighbor’s wife.

King David had it made. He was winning all the battles, had amassed great wealth, had a strong family, but wanted someone who belonged to someone else: “…when she came to him, he lay with her…” (2 Sam. 11:4).

It could have been lust; possibly a weak moment. Or the real possibility of thinking, I’m the king, I can do anything I want, and I’ve earned the right. I am entitled to this.

The answer to why is found in the following chapter.

The LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, and was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” (2 Samuel 12:1-4 NASB)

Although the rich man had everything and the poor man had only one thing, the rich man thought that because of “who he was” he could take the only thing the poor man had. This illustrates what King David did.

The sense of entitlement goes beyond getting your deserved and agreed-upon income, perks, and benefit package. It can get out of control when you begin thinking:

I’m the boss; where would they be without me?

I’ve worked hard for this company; they need to take good care of me. I’ll do whatever I feel like doing. 

I’m the anointed one, the pastor, apostle, prophet, bishop, and I can do this because of who I am.

This was where King David was. He took from someone else, took advantage of a person who really couldn’t say no, to satisfy his desire.

The sense of entitlement can cover a lot of territory. It could be in the area of adultery, the excessive use of corporate credit cards, or the opinion that he never has to say, “I’m sorry,” because he is never wrong. There are written rules in every successful company and church, and there are unwritten ethical codes that every leader must follow.

In case you think this happens only to people in power—think again. It could be an employee who thinks the boss really needs him because of his abilities, so the employee expects unusual perks and treatment.It might be a board member in the church who thinks he can push the pastor around because of his influence in the congregation. It might be people who attend a church who think they’re entitled to have the pastor serve their whims. 

Kids can do this to their parents; parents can do it to their children. Employees can do it to their boss; bosses can do it to their employees. Pastors can do this to their congregation and congregation members can do it to their pastors. Operating “under the radar” of what is right can affect us all. 

A sense of entitlement can have a devastating impact on your organization, your family, or your church. It subtly slips into your life—first one rationalization, then another. There are many leaders who know they demand too much and that they expect to have the best of everything. What they don’t recognize is that they are ruining their future. Others see what they are doing and the necessary foundation of trust is eroded. The most common negatives of the sense of entitlement are:

  • Getting stuck in our own world view. We stop growing, we stop learning, and we no longer need the team. Every leader must be a lifelong learner. A leader is a ready and the team is critical to the success of the company. To be successful, we must surround ourselves with great thinkers and does.
  • Feeling that we don’t need to answer to anyone—boards, committees, staff, or our wife. We have told ourselves that we don’t need accountability. If mistakes are made, we blame everyone except ourselves.
  • Being unwilling to change. We think that our way is the only “really right” way. We don’t listen to the opinions of other wise, well-educated, or experienced people. If someone disagrees with us—we write them off.
  • Thinking we are infallible. We believe we do everything with excellence and—in the world of executives—we are really the best. This blindness can slowly invade our lives. We may have a great education, have many years of experience, have risen to a level in the organization where we call the shots, but do not see that infallibility is an illusion. We cause a lot of problems when we feel we make the right call every time. All of us have weaknesses. There are people in our companies who have more education, experience, and “horse sense” in many areas. We need them because all of us are fallible.

Entitlement is an illness that can be self-medicated. It’s not a trap that we inevitably walk into. All leaders can watch out for this temptation, by looking within.

Examine your life and see if you’re claiming to be entitled to something that is not yours. Before “entitlement” ruins you, prevents you from achieving success, or destroys your church or company—you can choose to get it under control. As you climb the corporate ladder of success you often get more perks; people admire and flatter you. You got there because you believed in the vision. You worked hard, walked through open doors, and one thing happened after another. But now you surround yourself with “yes” people. Anyone who challenges your opinion is your enemy. You feel you deserve more money, perks, time, service, agreement, and empowerment because of who you are. What do you think? Is it excessive? Are you in balance? If there’s excess, you can choose to get your life into balance. Educate yourself by looking at others who have abused their situations—and have failed. It’s not worth the price they paid.

(An excerpt from the book Why Great Men Fall by Wayde Goodall)

Points to ponder:

How do you think the sense of entitlement is affecting someone you know? Examine your heart about the matter and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything to you with regards to this matter. Let us know your thoughts about this article.

Please share as comment below!

enewsletter 2017

Throughout history, great men have made wrong decisions that have radically changed their lives. However, there are some who have made bad choices, and decided to learn from it, grow through it, and become even a greater leader.

This is more than just a book that reveals the problem why great men fall or points a finger at the guilty. You will learn solutions, guidelines, and boundaries that we can put around our live that will protect us from our intentional wrong choices. There is a fail-safe guide for remaining on the right path, and Why Great Men Fall illustrates that safe route in a riveting way.

About the authorDr. Wayde Goodall is Dean of the College of Ministry at Northwest University, Kirkland, Washington. He is founder of which ministers to families, couples, men, pastors, and leaders in over 30 nations. He has written and co-authored 14 books including Why Great Men Fall. Wayde and his wife Rosalyn are the founding Pastors of Vienna Christian Center, in Vienna, Austria.

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