Our country has a peculiar epidemic: About 80% of Americans are in debt.
While the holidays conjure up warm memories of joyous parties, festive feasts, twinkly lights and family time, perhaps the most cherished of traditions in the final months of the year comes to us in the form of gifts. New gadgets. New trinkets. New stuff.
But how many of these things do we actually need, and how many of these things do we simply feel entitled to because it's Christmas? If we get the entitlement blues this Christmas, how do we fight back?
"When people feel entitled, they are not merely disappointed when others fail to accommodate their presumed rights, they feel cheated and wronged," Steven Stosny explains in his article in Psychology Today. "They get angry, exude hostility and assume a stronger sense of entitlement as compensation. Of course, once we're older than 5 and not cute anymore, the world is not likely to meet our entitlement needs.
"So it gets to be a downward spiral—the more they don't get what they're sure they deserve, the more justified they feel in demanding compensation.... Not surprisingly, criminals, domestic violence offenders, aggressive drivers and abusers of all kinds have been observed to have exaggerated entitlement."
Stosny goes on to discuss the lost art of humility and how recognizing that we are no better than others actually has great benefits for both the individual and society.
"Every sin is relational, so all obedience and holiness are relational as well toward God and others," Gary Wilkerson muses in his podcast about hiding under a false sense of worth.
Certainly, this is a viewpoint that the Bible espouses. "All of us like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way,
but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6). The heart of salvation is recognizing that we've chosen separation from God, and that He's bridged the gap at enormous personal cost for us to have a relationship with Him again.
If we've truly grasped that concept, then there's not much room left for entitlement.
While some might claim that entitlement is really only present in younger generations, nothing in history can really back up that statement. All the way back to biblical times, people have felt they deserve better than they got.
Cain killed Abel in a jealous rage because God didn't approve of his sacrifice (Gen. 4:1-16). The Israelites complained that the food from heaven wasn't good enough for them (Num. 11). In Luke 17, Jesus restored 10 lepers with a word, but only one returned to thank Him for the miraculous healing.
In the early days of the United States' history, President Lincoln spoke on our need for thankfulness when he called for a day of fasting and prayer.
He wrote, "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven ... But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own."
As we examine our lives and circumstances, we must acknowledge that all of the goodness around us is a gracious blessing from our Father. We don't have a "right" to the riches of the world and certainly not to live beyond our means.
David sets an example of the right mentality in Psalm 100:4: "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; be thankful to Him, and bless His name."
Ann Voskamp is one of today's leading voices on the refinement of gratitude. Her book One Thousand Gifts is chiefly concerned with our fresh awareness and practice of gratitude to God.
"Ultimately, we're all fallen; our default is to be more like Satan, to always be ungrateful," Voskamp points out in a podcast. "So what are we going to do? Intentionally turn our hearts and say, 'I'm going to be grateful for everything God gives me.'"
This Thanksgiving remember that this mentality of always looking for things to be grateful for has powerful effects.
"Saying 'thank you' will always reveal unseen blessings. We can't control the giver, but we can always expect one gift: the power to hope," points out Eric Demeter in his article on gratitude as a spiritual discipline.
This isn't just blithe positivity or ignoring bad events or situations. The true heart of gratitude is constantly keeping what God has done for us in front of us.
"The Bible says that we love because He first loved us," Gary Wilkerson reminds viewers in one of his 86 Seconds devotionals. "Oh, the great, great love of God that He has for you today. Don't forget it! Remember how much He loves you; it'll change your whole day."
Rachel Chimits is a writer for World Challenge, a global ministry that encourages people to live a better life and make a better world through Jesus Christ.
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