Necessities or Entitlements
I’m convinced that many people today don’t understand the difference between necessities and entitlements. Through social media, we have a tendency to hyperbolize our indulgences and desires. Just look at what people post about coffee on any given day.
But we need to be clear. A necessity is something without which your life would be greatly impoverished; an entitlement (and we could just as easily substitute the word indulgence here) is something without which your life would be slightly less pleasurable. Water is a necessity; coffee is not. (I’ve been off caffeine since Christmas and let me tell you, I have much more energy than I used to.) Clothing is a necessity; a new outfit for a “special occasion” is not. Shelter is a necessity; a house full of the latest stuff is not.
Our entitlements (or indulgences) are not necessarily bad things. Coffee isn’t evil. It’s not wrong, per se, to buy a new outfit. Owning an iPhone isn’t a sin. But what many of us have to learn (myself included) is where to draw the line between what is necessary and what is not. If that line gets blurred, we act like spoiled brats when things don’t go our way or when we don’t get everything we want. A blurry line between necessity and entitlement is a sure sign of a soul sickness that will poison (or perhaps already has poisoned) your heart toward God.
It’s impossible to be grateful (or gracious) when your soul has been poisoned by entitlement. When you believe in your heart that it is your birthright to get everything you desire, or when you feel that God, the universe, or others owe you something, then you will perceive everything you receive as due wages for your mere existence rather than as the stunning act of a gracious God seeking to bless you with his goodness. Entitlement is the enemy of gratitude.
When you believe in your heart that it is your birthright to get everything you desire, then you will perceive everything you receive as due wages for your mere existence rather than as the stunning act of a gracious God seeking to bless you with his goodness.
I have been learning to say “No” to some of my entitlements, and my life is so much better for it. One of my main entitlements is in the area of food, particularly eating out. During our long fight with Zeke’s Batten Disease, my wife and I were often left beaten and exhausted at the end of the day, with no energy or desire to make dinner at home. We ate out often, and I allowed myself to unnecessarily indulge at lunch as well as dinner. This luxury became something I felt entitled to because of the difficulty of my life. “I deserve to savor this Chipotle,” I convinced myself daily. But this indulgence, this entitlement, was destroying both my physical and financial health.
This year, I have been teaching myself to say “No” to this temptation. One practical way I do this is buying groceries (bread, peanut butter, etc.) for lunch and leaving them at work. It’s impossible to forget my lunch at home when it’s waiting for me at work! By planning ahead, I’m setting myself up for success whenever I hear that temptation in my heart. I don’t need to eat out. Ever! I’m slowly teaching myself to say “No” to this entitlement – and by extension, many of the other entitlements in my heart as well.
Think about the entitlements in your life. Are they necessary? Or are they indulgences? Are they extravagant and luxurious versions of things you actually need (like food or clothing)? Where can you scale back? I believe God wants to cure you of these soul poisons, and instill in your heart the self-discipline that makes space for gratitude.