I happen to live in a little suburb of Ft. Worth...that is pretty close to another certain little suburb. My little slice is made up of people in the middle or lower-middle class. Average people. Young families with kids, older single people, young couples. Modest cars, modest lifestyles for the most part. Then I drive through another slice where, for some reason, people seem to cut in front of me or push me off the road. I find that I am repeatedly snubbed in stores and restaurants for no apparent reason other than some of these people feel they are more important than everyone else.
Well, lemme tell ya, that really gets my goat. There's this sneaky little bugger called "entitlement" that worms its way into a soul and makes a person think only about themselves, their rights and privileges and how unimportant everything and everyone else is. Entitlement can actually be called many things: snobbiness, rudeness, arrogance, selfishness. But the real root is pride.
Pride is disgusting, isn't it? When you see someone treating others like lowly vermin, don't you just feel your blood start to boil?
I began stewing on this issue one day after I had several run-ins with the Entitlement Club. I kept thinking things like, "Who does she think she IS? Oprah?" "Where's the fire, honey, because I know you didn't just squeeze me out of line!" "Oh, pardon me, Mr. Fancy Car. Please, go ahead and make a place for yourself there. Don't worry about us." I got so up-in-arms thinking about how sickening it was to watch the display of arrogance...and then I came to a screeching halt mid-thought.
I heard the quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit saying, "You're doing the very same thing."
Ruh-roh. What? Show me what You're talking about, God, because I don't think I just road-hogged my way across four lanes to get the spot I wanted on the highway. (defensiveness and sassiness at full throttle)
Apparently, pride is not restricted to a concentrated area of the elite! I may not have overtly acted on it, but I, sure enough, had just thought about my own rights being violated due to that person's behavior. And I certainly let my mind go with it and travel to my mouth. And words came out. I countered entitlement with entitlement and that didn't get us anywhere but messed up. Those EC-ers (Entitlement Club-ers) had left such a bad taste in my mouth that I thought I would get back at them, covertly, by pointing out their flaws and making myself seem better for NEVER doing such things. This may seem relatively harmless to you, but anytime the Holy Spirit points something out, you'd better listen up. He was showing me the contents of my heart...and not in the pretty, sanctified sections.
I realized that I'm still clutching pretty tightly to my "rights." I assume I have the right to drive on the road without being forced off by a bully. I assume I have the right to receive fair treatment in a social setting. I assume I have the right to speak my mind. I assume I have the right to good customer service. I assume I have the right to common courtesy.
In this great Land of Opportunity, we're pretty serious about our rights. It is drilled into us as children and emblazoned on our star-spangled hearts. And there truly are those certain unalienable rights set in motion by God and stated so eloquently in our Declaration of Independence: rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..."
But I know we've each individually taken our "rights" too far. That's the funny thing about the Kingdom of God. You can't go very far in the Kingdom when you hold up the shield of your rights. It's almost like you are trying to swim through jello while you hold a cast-iron bathtub in front of you. There's a bit of...resistance, shall we say. The Scripture puts it like this:
"...Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'" I Peter 5:5 (NKJV)
God actually RESISTS you when you are prideful. When you champion your own rights. When you make yourself a display of grandeur. BUT, that same verse also lets you in on a Kingdom secret: He gives grace to the humble. Grace is like oil in the gears of a machine: it makes everything work together without getting jammed. When you lay down your rights at the feet of Jesus, He lifts you up and covers you in grace. All of a sudden, you find ease in your movements. You find you can dance - even fly. You're most powerful when you shed your "rights" and receive His grace.
Grace actually makes you more flexible, too. I love the modern day "addition" to the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break." Ain't that the truth?!
Is it really any way to live when you snap at someone's random misbehavior? I'm done wasting my time with my passive, hidden entitlement. I'm laying down all my "rights" and choosing the Kingdom way: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time." I Peter 5:6 (NIV)
I mentioned before about other people's actions leaving a bad taste in my mouth. I'm thinking I'd like to counter the sour with the sweet. My goal is to leave a sweet taste in people's mouths anytime they deal with me - on the road, in the grocery store, at a restaurant, on the phone, at the library, in the school pickup line... Grace makes room for people. Grace values people. And humility is the first step to receiving and extending that wonderful grace.
Some of you are thinking, "Doesn't that make me a doormat, having to cover for people all the time and letting them take advantage of me?" I'm not talking about letting someone harm you. I'm not saying we should all be wimpy and complacent - not at all. What I'm getting at is that snarly beast of pride that gets a claw-hold in your gut and starts getting sassy. Anytime you feel defensiveness swell up or you start to condemn someone for their words or behavior, check yourself for the pride beast. Then cut off its ugly head by humbling yourself.
"If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored." Matthew 23:12 (CEV)
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)
"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up." James 4:10 (NIV)
"...And all of you, serve each other in humility, for 'God opposes the proud, but favors the humble.'" I Peter 5:5 (NLT)
Lord, forgive me for my prideful attitude toward people. I acknowledge that You alone are the Just Judge and You alone are in the highest place. I lay myself down at Your feet, Lord. I love You. I am so grateful to You for saving my life and letting me truly live. I release my rights back to You. Instead of trusting in my rights to protect me, I trust in You to protect me. I don't want You to oppose or resist me, Lord - I want Your favor. So, I humble myself before You and ask You to fill me up with Your Spirit, Your sweetness. Thank You for Your unfailing truth, God. I trust You. In Jesus' name, Amen.