II THESSALONIANS 3:7-13: “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, for we did not behave inappropriately among you. And we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but worked night and day with labor and hardship, so as not to burden any of you. It wasn’t that we had no right, but rather to offer ourselves as an example for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that some among you are behaving irresponsibly—not busy, but busybodies. Now such people we command and urge in the Lord Messiah Yeshua to work in a quiet demeanor, so they may eat their own bread. But as for you, brothers, do not grow weary of doing good.” TLV
OBSERVATION: What is a spirit of entitlement? It is the attitude that I deserve something without working for it. In our present culture this attitude is running rampant in the minds and hearts of many. We look to the government and the church as institutions that owe us something simply because we exist.
Over the years those in government and those in the church have begun to cater to this growing spirit of entitlement. You can see it in the way politicians campaign for office, and in the the way churches try to attract visitors. We approach both with a soup line mentality, our bowls ready, and our hands open to receive. And it does not seem to be getting any better. I seems like a stupor has settled over us.
As we approach another election cycle in America we can see how far we have fallen. Candidates today are calling for the government to offer everything free to its citizens, from free tuition, to free healthcare, even a free base living wage – all provided by the government. And many Christians are falling prey to this deceptive web. What would Paul have to say to us in this day. Exactly what he said to the Thessalonians,
- “For even when we were with you, we would give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that some among you are behaving irresponsibly—not busy, but busybodies. Now such people we command and urge in the Lord Messiah Yeshua to work in a quiet demeanor, so they may eat their own bread.”
My beloved Grandfather was born in the year 1900. He was born before both World Wars, the Great Depression, Social Security, and Medicare. He left an abusive home when he was just 13 and learned the trade of tool and die making. He worked hard all of his life and never accepted a handout. And when he retired he continue to work, every day, helping others by fixing their broken items, assisting them with their yard work, or anything else he was able to do. My grandfather taught me the importance of work, and the reward of a job well done.
When I was 13 I began to think about cars. I would buy the current car magazines with the money I earned by washing cars and mowing yards. I knew I wanted to have my first set of wheels when I turned 16. So, I did what every young teenager would do. I asked my Dad if he would buy me a car when I turned 16. To my surprise and disappointment he said NO! He could have afforded to do so, but he told me if I wanted a car that I would have to buy it myself, pay for my own insurance, and buy my own gas.
My initial thought – ‘THAT’S NOT FAIR!”
This was the best thing my Dad ever did for me! With the work ethic that my Grandfather taught me, and the wisdom of my Dad, I began to work from the age of 14 on. I landed a job at a local restaurant and worked and saved my money until my 16th birthday. My Dad helped me by co-signing for a small car loan, as I almost was able to pay off the car with the money I saved. I payed for my car, car payment, and insurance. When I discovered how expensive this was, it forced me to look for a better job. And I kept knocking on the door for a better job until I landed it. Without this desire, and without the work ethic and wisdom of my Grandfather and Father, I could have slipped into a spirit of entitlement.
The spirit of entitlement robs an individual of their self worth. God has created us to work. In the Garden of Eden the Lord instructed Adam,
- “Then ADONAI Elohim formed the man out of the dust from the ground and He breathed into his nostrils a breath of life—so the man became a living being. Then ADONAI Elohim planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed…Then ADONAI Elohim took the man and gave him rest in the Garden of Eden in order to cultivate and watch over it.” Genesis 2:7-8, 15 TLV
Adam did not just sit under a tree to be served. The Lord provided for him in the garden, but even before the fall into sin, Adam’s job was to cultivate and watch over it. Adam was given a job before he was given a wife. Eve was created as an equal helper for Adam to fulfill the work the Lord had given them. Work is a sacred trust that fulfills both man’s dignity and God’s calling. When the government or the church does not understand this, when they try to lure people by the things they give away, when freebies replace opportunities, they become complicit in robbing mankind of its God given dignity.
Our Constitution was written on the premise of our Declaration of Independence,
- “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
If you read the United States Constitution, and our Bylaws (and I encourage everyone to do so), you will find that the pursuit of happiness did not mean the right to leisure. What did it mean? The pursuit of happiness refers to the right to own property. When this was written the majority of Americans were farmers. The pursuit of happiness connoted the right to own property and work this property for one’s benefit and the benefit of their family. It was the freedom to work and experience the dignity that only a job well done can bring.
Before we ask for more handouts we need to ask where these handouts will come from. Socialism works well for a short period of time, until the money runs out. In my business experience I have witnessed large companies who were in financial trouble buy a smaller successful company as a way of shoring up their sagging bottom line. Things would improve for a short while as they siphoned money out of the successful company. Yet, they never put any money back. When the money ran out it was not just one company that failed, but two. And many more jobs were lost in the process.
Our culture is heading right for the cliff of moral and financial collapse unless we wake up and return to the our true pursuit of happiness. The Bible teaches us the same principle. The Book of Proverbs is full of exhortations against laziness and entitlement, while upholding the virtue and value of work. I remember as a young boy hearing the words of the late President John F. Kennedy who said,
- “Ask not what your nation can do for you, as what you can do for your nation.”
We have sadly lost the impact of these words.
It is time to do some serious personal and Biblical introspection! We have a mid-term election that can determine whether we as a nation move further toward entitlement or the true pursuit of happiness. As Christians we need to pray, and we need to also intercept the spirit of entitlement in our life together as the church. We are always called to offer a hand up, not simply a hand out. Someone has wisely said – “Give an man a fish, and he will be hungry again. Teach a man to fish, and he will feed himself for the rest of his life!”
It is time we teach people how to fish! This is the Biblical and Christian thing to do!
In Jesus Name!