The Scriptures teach, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
We live in an age of assumed entitlement. It affects our politics, our communities, our workplaces and our families, with many people simply assuming others are obligated to compensate them simply for the act of existing.
Though the results of such feelings of entitlement differ according to individual situations, overall they can be observed to precipitate actions which are unseemly, selfish and wicked. We can see spoiled children yelling at their parents in the middle of a store demanding some toy or other. We know of employees who feel no guilt about stealing from their employers or who do poor work while expecting rich compensation. We can talk with individuals who grumble and complain if charity is late or unavailable. We hear the disgruntled complaints of other people have more than self. We see images of rioters on TV, burning, looting, and helping themselves to other people’s property.
The symptoms are different but the causes are the same: selfishness, entitlement and a lack of contentment. Society and individuals alike are harmed when we give in to such thinking, and the scriptures are made true, that we have “pierced [ourselves] through with many sorrows.”
As we are currently in a season in which we strive, as a nation, to be thankful, it is worth taking a moment to reflect upon the underlying motivations of thanksgiving, and the joy which comes from contentment.
A large part of gratitude comes from the recognition that you are not, in fact, guaranteed to get everything you want, and that many of the things we do receive are not deserved. It is much harder to be thankful for the things you take for granted, or which are yours by right. The apostle Paul alludes to this, when he writes to the Romans, “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” (Romans 4:4) If you have indeed worked hard for another, there is a reasonable expectation of compensation. But absent that work, there is no inherent obligation for the world, or those in the world, to give you anything. This is not saying that acts of charity and generosity are unreasonable or wrong; to the contrary, love should compel such actions. But when we are the recipients of such love, we should recognize the unmerited nature of the gift and thus be thankful.
Recognizing that there is no natural right to other people’s property, and that we have been given in this world more than we actually deserve, we should learn to be content with what we have, rather than constantly envious and covetous. If we have food for the day, and clothing for the body, we have what we need at this particular time. Anything beyond this is luxury and, so blessed with such luxury, we should be filled with gladness that we are so well off.
One of those things we certainly do not deserve is the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. We have each sinned, rebelling against the God who created us. But in His love, because of His nature, He sent His Son to be the propitiation for the sins of those who would accept and obey Him in faith. We have no reasonable expectation that God should desire to save us and bless us, even as we turn against Him, but such is the quality of His love for man that He did so. We should never take any blessing for granted, being thankful to God in all things, but we should be especially mindful of the spiritual blessings found only in Christ. And being so grateful, we should give praise and obedience to God, abounding always in joy, love, and thanksgiving.
In the church of Christ, we strive to always be thankful for our blessings and invite you to come and worship our God together with us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.