Bob Tamasy: Be Careful About What You Think You're Entitled To

  • Thursday, April 11, 2024
  • Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

When you hear the word “entitlement,” what comes to mind? Like a lot of words in the English language, it carries a variety of meanings. It can amount to an “if A, then B” or “if this happens, then that will happen” cause-and-effect type of statement. For instance, for hourly wage workers, if they work five hours, they should get paid for five hours work. Or, if you practice a skill consistently, then you can expect improvement.

We hear about “government entitlements.” These include Social Security and Medicare benefits for which many recipients had money deducted from their paychecks during their working careers. They’re “entitled” to receive benefits they’ve essentially paid for in advance. Other government entitlements, however, are distributed to people who’ve contributed little or nothing ahead of time.

Then there’s the sentiment that people “deserve” certain things, for no reason other than they are living and breathing. I’m of the opinion that people don’t “deserve” a luxury car, expensive house, or a pricey college education, unless they’re willing to repay the debts incurred by acquiring them. Thinking differently, it seems, has led many in our society to an entitlement mentality.

Leadership consultant Tim Kight describes it this way: “Entitlement comes from wanting more than you are willing to work for. It’s the result of a ‘want ethic’ rather than a work ethic.”

I remember a job at a grocery store I had while a senior in college. Since I’d worked in a different supermarket in another state while I was in high school, I assumed because of my experience I was “entitled” to the job regardless of how much effort I expended. Wrong. A few weeks into it, my manager put me on notice that if I didn’t pick the pace and work harder, the only thing I’d be entitled to was walking out the door and not coming back.

Heeding the warning, I did start working more diligently. This “entitled” me to remain on the store payroll as a grocery clerk. But also realizing my future wasn’t in the grocery business, I formulated a plan that could entitle me to devote my career to endeavors more suited to my interests and abilities.

This is one reason I’m a strong advocate of personal initiative, hard work, determination, and approaching challenges with a positive attitude. Just as some people define “luck” as putting in the work and preparation necessary to capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves, I believe people are entitled to reap the rewards of their hard work.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way. The Bible is filled with teachings and principles about the importance of hard work and diligence. The Old Testament book of Proverbs offers many examples. For instance, Proverbs 10:4-5 declare, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.”

Even if we’ve never worked on a farm, it’s clear that if a person is unwilling to expend the necessary effort, they shouldn’t feel entitled to anything in return. As the adage tells us, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Another verse points out the likelihood that diligence will bring the opposite outcome: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29).

Paradoxically, however, the Scriptures place their greatest emphasis on receiving the things we truly are not entitled to – salvation, forgiveness, a personal relationship with God, and assurance of eternal life after our earthly lives have ended.

When asked, “Do you think you’ll go to heaven when you die?” many people will answer, “I think so. I’m a pretty good person.” To which the Word of God seems to respond, “Wrong!” Because Romans 3:10-12 states, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God…there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Underscoring that point, Romans 3:23 delivers the bad news: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In other words, not one of us measures up to God’s perfect, holy standard.

Thankfully, we don’t have to wait too long to read more comforting words, even if they have nothing to do with our being “entitled.” Romans 5:8 declares, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Then Romans 6:23 observes, ”For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We could cite many other passages, but two in particular capture the Bible’s position that salvation and right standing with God can’t be earned or deserved, but received only on the basis of His mercy and unmerited favor.

Ephesians 2:8-9 asserts, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Titus 3:5-7 affirms this: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy…so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs [with Christ] having the hope of eternal life.”

We can debate “entitlements” as they’re currently perceived in our society, but from God’s point of view, we’re entitled to absolutely nothing. Anything and everything we receive from Him is solely on the basis of His love and grace.

* * *

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is btamasy@comcast.net.

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