Friday, March 5, 2010

Does "Entitlement" Begin At Home?

We hear a lot about “entitlement” these days. Government “entitlement” programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the current administration’s proposed Healthcare system, have all had a great deal of media coverage for the past several months. We hear this word, “entitlement” a great deal in the debates that go on between the political parties.

So what exactly is entitlement? Essentially it is simply a “right” granted by law. When it comes to government programs, it means that the government provides benefits directly a specified group by way of law. It hinges on the belief that one is “deserving of,” or “entitled to” certain privileges. I remember this was a defining moment to me in the debates before our last Presidential election. When both candidates were asked whether health insurance was a “privilege” or a “right,” their answers were completely and very remarkably in my mind, DIFFERENT.

Entitlement programs in our government, account for more than half of our federal spending and have been on the increase. Is that biblical?

This past week I was interested in the resurrection of a quote from former President Ronald Reagan, who said “It is very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project.” This brought to my mind what we are told in scripture about Satan “disguising himself as an angel of light.” It is the very reason that the Proverbs implore us to “Seek wisdom” and “Get understanding.” We must embrace the wisdom found in the Word of God and apply to our lives or we will be vulnerable to being deceived.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12

We must not do what seems like the right thing to do, but what is actually prescribed as right in the sight of God. Volumes can be written about how far we as a society have strayed from this very point. Reagan was in actuality, backing up what we see in scripture. It is easy for someone to cloak their wrong motives by disguising them in the garb of compassion and vice versa! How many times have we as Christians been demonized as “intolerant” and “mean-spirited” because we adhere to godly principles?

The fact is that money and government programs are not true compassion. The entitlement mentality preached to us as being “right” and “compassionate” is in direct contrast to God’s word. Our founding fathers actually had it correct! We have a right to “life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness.” We have a right to life and freedom and to our own pursuits. But that does not relieve us from having to live with the consequences of our actions.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall reap life everlasting.” Galations 6:7-8

God has provided us the freedom to choose for ourselves. But there are consequences to our actions. In regard to “entitlements” our heavenly father wants us to look out for the needs of the poor and the oppressed, but he clearly states and demonstrates all throughout scripture that we, as individuals, have a personal responsibility to do what we can for ourselves.

In Matthew 17:27, Jesus sends Peter to the sea to cast in a hook and take the first fish, open his mouth and take out a piece of money to pay taxes for both of them. That flies in the face of the entitlement mentality. He did not send Peter to the other disciples to get the tribute money.

In 2 Thess. 3:10, we read, “if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

An “entitlement mentality” robs individuals of self esteem. God created us with the responsibility to do work.

“ The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:15

Where does this “entitlement mentality” come from? Ultimately it comes from not knowing and/or obeying God’s word. Right thinking and behaviors are no longer demonstrated in our homes first and foremost. One of biggest culprits in my mind is that children, for the past several generations, have been seeing less and less of a connection between work and income or possessions. This “disconnect” on top of the increase in availability of credit has created a society where people simply don’t understand the value of money as it relates to work, nor do they have a healthy appreciation for what they have, because they have not invested anything personally to receive it.

When children do not connect work with receiving income in order to obtain the things they want or need, they begin to expect that things should simply be given to them.

We as parents have often neglected to teach this biblical connection between work and material blessing either because we ourselves don’t make the connection, or because we just haven’t thought about how the connection gets obscured. Furthermore, we have an innate desire to be “compassionate” to our kids and take a short-sided albeit well-meaning” approach to giving them the things they want.

My husband recognized this attitude in our children early on. When our kids wanted to have high priced items, they had to come up with all or part of the investment after answering a few good questions…

How much is the item?

How long will you have to work to pay for that item?

Did you allow for taxes in that calculation?

What other costs will be associated with having that item?

Do you still want the item?

Sometimes the answer was “no,” but if it was “yes,” the kids had an entirely different appreciation for the thing they purchased because they had to wait and save for it and because they were fully aware of the investment they had made and therefore it held a different value to them. They appreciated it more and took better care of it.

This is just another example. If we want to change the way the world thinks, it starts in our homes. We have to be intentional about teaching our children what God says is true in all areas of life or the world will do it for us. The economy is no exception!



Sharon Sloan said...

I agree, Stacy. Teaching our kids about good work ethic, earning money, God-honoring saving/spending -- it all begins at home. It's hard work.

One thing I knew early as a parent is I never wanted our children to feel "entitled".

They are entitled to God, to His perfect love, to an intimate relationship with Him. So reassuring.

Great message rooted in the Word! Thanks!


Edie said...

This was fantastic Stacy! You are so right on target here. If we are going to change this culture it must begin in our homes and with the way we teach our children. I love the way you and your husband approach the matter with your kids.

Warren Baldwin said...

Stacy, I liked this post! Very good. Warren & Minirth write about entitlement and exemption in their book, "Things That Go Bump in the Night." Exemption is the idea that even if we do something wrong, we are not accountable. Thus, there should be no negative consequences. Exemption and Entitlement are a bad combination!