America’s Entitlement Culture and Why Revival Tarries
America is in crisis, but most occupants do not realize the source. We are drifting from our foundations and the societal walls built as a nation are in danger of toppling. No building can stand without a foundation. Some within the church know it. They see we need revival to restore the foundations. Many cannot identify what is keeping us from the revival we so much need. Though there may be multiple answers to this conundrum, idolatry is the main answer. We have as many idols as the land of India and we give them fervent worship. The challenge is, we do not recognize them as gods, often even in the church. They are gods of the mind and so much a part of the nation’s culture they are innocuous. Because of them revival tarries.
An idol is where we place our trust besides God, what we behold reverently or that which consumes our time. Consider a few things in these categories:
“normal” life convenience
self-fulfillment our politics
you deserve_____________ government
sports socialism-class envy
our agenda what others have
money media and electronics
Because of our prosperity, we worship a pernicious idol. Our god is entitlement. The government provides entitlement programs and we nurture an entitlement attitude. Entitlement synonyms are: “claim, right and birthright.” [i]
America is the richest nation in history.
As a result, our citizens expect to get a large chunk of the American Dream. If we decide against securing that dream, we will apply to our entitlement programs, so we can play more. This allows us to work less and still survive. “Survive” in America means flat screen TV’s, cell phones, brand name clothes and often cars. The government entitlement machine in this case becomes a god substitute. We do not need God. The State can support us. The richness of America’s programs has shaped the American psyche for the poor to expect this largess.
On the flip side of government entitlement programs is the Capitalist system that rewards hard work and ingenuity. This is not a bad thing but, we stumble when we insert this system in God’s place. In who or what do we trust? Do we say we trust God while our fears and actions point to our true gods and revival tarries?
Those who follow the American Dream feel entitled to that dream. They commit to the sacrifices it takes to get what they believe is their birthright. For example, if those sacrifices include time with God, so be it. The American Dream and the little gods involved with it are sufficient worship.
We can work within Capitalism trusting God to provide through it or we can put our trust in Capitalism. The following scripture illustrates an entitlement attitude. It also points us to the answer.
What Does God Say?
Matt. 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard…. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’”
Matt. 20:8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ 9 “When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. 10 “When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 “When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 ‘Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” NASB
It is obvious those who worked the whole day believed the landowner was not fair. They agreed for a denarius for the entire day. Those hired later agreed the landowner would pay them what was right. He paid them a day’s wage even though they worked part of a day.
America’s politically correct movement speaks often in behalf of fairness.
God’s Kingdom is not fair. The Kingdom practices justice. The statement “the first will be last and the last first” is not about fairness. Instead, it illustrates servant-hood and justice. The Servant God, Jesus practiced the first becoming last when he died displaying the justice of heaven against sin. Similarly, this statement invites us to die to self and become alive to God. Those first in the Kingdom serve God and others. This is the true measure. God measures Kingdom success by our yielding to the will of God.
Part of the problem is the lack of understanding about how his Kingdom works. The phrase that the first are last is a cure for entitlement.
Entitlement includes two things.
One is envy. Envy is the desire to possess what others own even to the point of dispossessing them. Envy when taken to its farthest point is true even if the person who envies cannot obtain the desired object. At least the other person no longer has it either.
The second thing entitlement includes is the eye. We tend to not envy what we cannot see. Looming large in our entitlement culture is media telling us we need, others have, and we deserve _________. In fact, what we see and what the media tells us generate greed in our hearts. The eye sees, and this causes a seed of greed to grow. Now we must own the advertised object. The speed at which information travels exacerbates this.
Verse 16 brings balance to the problem in verse 15. “So, the last shall be first, and the first last.” This verse illustrates the mindset we must develop to overcome entitlement. We must seek to be last, humble, his and nothing more. To be his alone we must lay aside selfish ambition and become ambitious for His will and glory.
So how do we become last? First Philippians gives us important insight. A correct understanding of suffering for the believer is key.
Suffering is a gift.
Phil 1:29 “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,” NASB
The word for granted in the Greek is charisma and means “grant, give, bestow on, free gift.”[ii]
Granted and gifted are synonyms. One thing life gifts us with is suffering. Phil 1:29 tells us we are gifted with suffering for His sake.
Americans financial blessings often help us avoid suffering. As a result, we keep God from dealing with the self-deception, self-seduction and idolatry resident in our lives. We do this because we have many means by which we can control our destiny.
Idolatry is fear based. The fear of a young child causes them to use protective behaviors. Over the years, the protective behaviors layer one over the other until the original fear is no longer noticed. The only hint it resides within is the idols served. One of the main tools the Lord uses to set us free is suffering. In difficulty, we question the behaviors we use to guide our lives. Then as we are in the word and prayer, the Lord can show us the lies we believe. Till then our idols guide us more than the Lord’s voice and word.
Scripture tells us the Lord learned obedience through suffering. Are we better than Him? If we are rebellious against his will, then we have much to understand about suffering. Suffering teaches obedience. Obedience is possible if we make him Lord. Obedience eventually brings an end to entitlement, but we cannot divorce Lordship from suffering. This is because we cannot see our other gods. Suffering makes them obvious. There is glory and freedom ahead for the one who embraces Lordship.
The Enemy has Only One Weapon, the Lie.
Think of this. We grow up believing the enemy’s lies. These become our foundation. Everything we build upon this foundation is in danger of toppling. We spend our lives propping up the structure, so no one will see what this building we call our lives really contains. Then along comes an engineer (God) who can see that our foundation is the problem. He knows to fix the foundation he must remove the materials that make up the walls because they will collapse, anyway. So, he tears down a wall. But we lean against the wall trying to prop it up and fight him.
Our Heavenly Engineer is removing one of the lesser lies. The major lies are in the foundation. But we guide our lives by these lies and the lesser ones keep the major ones from being found out. It is painful to give up the things we guide our lives by, but surrender is the way to freedom. If we keep the lesser lies, we won’t see the major lies. The whole thing may soon fall. This describes our lives and our nation. To have revival we must allow the Chief Engineer to do His work.
Phil. “3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” NIV
Fellowship is the word koinonia in the Greek which means “fellowship, a close mutual relationship; participation, sharing in; partnership.”[iii]
So, he calls us to participate in the gift of his sufferings. In his passion, he suffered to redeem a bride. As we suffer, our passions for the things of this world recede and our passion for him grows. We are to have a close mutual relationship with his sufferings. Since his suffering is a gift to us, in his suffering we find intimate fellowship with him. Suffering is part of the cure for entitlement, both for the believer and the nation.
Take up your cross.
Matt. 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’. NASB
The nouns in this passage and the passages below are singular. In fact, no one can carry the cross for you. The cross requires your decision as it required Christ’s decision.
Matt. 10:38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” NASB
Jesus followed the way of obedience. Obedience took him to the cross. He calls each of us to follow and at many times in our lives we must carry a cross. He bids us come and die to the lies that prop up our house. Jesus bids us come to the house he has prepared for us. This is an enduring house built on His truth, full of his glory because this house is the place of his presence. This awaits us as we embrace the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. His presence is the best place on earth both in suffering and in times of glory. Revival first comes to those who seek His face.
There is a cost to discipleship. A pastor from Liberia with a church of 1000 came to America. He works two entry-level jobs, so he can save money to build the church and school building his ministry needs in Liberia. He also pastors a church in the US. He does this along with much fasting and prayer.
When he mentioned going back to Liberia and taking money to work on the next phase of building, he said this. “I will take the money. We will buy supplies to make bricks. I will be there with the money during the building. Then I will return to the US. and earn money for the school. I cannot send the money to those who carry on the ministry back there. They don’t know my suffering to make this possible.”
Today much of the church does not understand the suffering our Lord endured.
The bride is getting ready for the Wedding Banquet while much of the church is oblivious in the west. Idolatry keeps the church from knowing him. Westerners idols are more important. Do we not know he gave us the blessings we enjoy? They were not to become our focus. We feel entitled to our possessions, our roles in life and our idols.
To suffer well, we must discern the great price he paid and joyfully take up our cross and follow him to the place of death. He will take us to the cross in the middle of our blessings. Then our blessings will take their proper place. We cannot do this without a regular Secret Place experience. We must know him for this knowing sustains us in suffering and brings us into revival.
Our nation is in trouble because the church is idolatrous. The church is the key to the renewal of our nation on its Godly foundations. Let the bride rise, take up her cross and follow him. Let the church teach the cross, lordship and suffering again. It is time to share the whole truth with the people of God and overturn the tables of the money-changers within the church in America. We need revival. God help us!
Lean in to Him and let His glory sustain you.
See him who is beyond description.
No man-framed words can help you understand.
He must breathe upon you.
His glory must light your heart
and illumine your understanding.
Glory revealed in your self-constructed darkness.
See the hill on which He died,
the blood that covered Him,
Embrace the nail scarred feet
and lean in to His rejection.
Feel the searing lash cutting flesh
when you suffer for Him.
Experience His blazing passion unto death.
Witness the end of the story
and the throne He won
because of zeal for the Father’s heart and
His love for his bride,
and choose to be wholly His.
[i] Dictionary.com Unabridged, Based on the Random House Dictionary, ©Random House, Inc. 2016
[ii] UBS Lexicon, A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, prepared by Barclay M. Newman, Jr., © 1971 by United Bible Societies, Edition © 1993, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
[iii] Newman Greek Dictionary, A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, Revised Edition (Newman Dictionary), Barclay M. Newman, © 2010 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.