ON ENTITLEMENT

“Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite.” I Samuel 25:3

What qualities of Nabal do you see in yourself? 

There sat the question I was supposed to reflect on this morning. It stared me in the face. I would have never seen myself in this Nabal character before reading this morning’s BSF* question. I am so proud of my own behavior that there is no way I would have ever seen how I would look anything like such a terrible person!

I tried to quash the similarities that attempted to break through my conscious thoughts. Nabal was harsh, ill-behaved, proud, impulsive, hot-tempered, entitled, distrusting…the list goes on. I wasn’t this way. I’m not these ways! (There may or may not have been a little fight at 6 am between me and my Bible study notes!) Sigh. I may not be harsh or badly behaved, but when I finally stopped fighting, I realized that yes, I am certainly entitled, especially when it comes to the way I think about myself.

My idea of entitlement instantly expanded.

I may have no problem being generous with my time, my money, my home, my possessions, but I DO have a problem when it comes to how others treat me. Although I hide it well, when life hands me rudeness or ridicule at the hand of someone else, I absolutely obsess the life out of it.

Because of ENTITLEMENT.

Three years ago a girl I thought I was friends with suddenly cut herself off from me. She  stopped responding to me, unfriended me on social media, then absolutely ignored every communication I made with her–so much so that once when I saw her and walked up to her at our YMCA, she refused to make eye contact with me.  I often thought of her after and wondered what I had done to upset her. I ended up calling her several months later to asked her to forgive me for what I did to her, without ever learning what happened. She told me I was a better person than her and then proceeded to question my motives for calling her, believing my motivation was to go gossip about her to our old mutual friends. At the end of all of that, I learned a hard lesson. Sometimes we encounter others with whom we must say God bless you as we go our separate ways. I said as much and have not spoken or heard from her since.

But I never reflected on the root of why I was so upset or offended by someone who had taken a sudden dislike to me. I didn’t mind apologizing even though I didn’t know what had happened because at the very deepest part of myself I didn’t believe I was possibly guilty of hurting anyone. I spend so much time thinking of others that it never crossed my mind that I could be actually guilty of offending or upsetting someone.

All of these memories came rushing to the surface this morning as I read about Nabal and Abigail. Lord, give me a spirit of discernment, as you gave Abigail! I prayed. And as I’ve come to expect, He showed me something.

I struggle with entitlement.

I am entitled to be liked. By everyone. I am entitled to be understood. I am entitled to this, I realized in my beliefs, because I work so hard to make sure I like everyone. And I work so hard to understand everyone. Therefore it follows everyone ought to reciprocate.

Yet, although mutuality of love and respect for others is a powerful and even biblical concept when it comes to Christian teaching about relationships, this does not entitle me to not being ridiculed or misunderstood by others. I am responsible for how I treat others. This does not mean that I submit myself to being bullied, ridiculed, abused, etc. Rather, it means that I humbly treat others just as I have been treated by Christ–accepted right now just how I am. He loves me with all of my quirks, wild ideas, and idiosyncrasies.

It’s Christ who does the work in others to change them–not me! Suddenly I realized why it was so hard for me to stop feeling angry about this old friend–it had been tied to my sense of entitlement and the duty I’d felt to fix it. But Christ didn’t called me to fix her. Though I realized this later after forgiving her, it wasn’t until today that I realized the dark cave in my heart where those entitled feelings had lain.

How did I come to look more like Nabal than I have ever wanted to admit?

Somewhere along the way I became deceived into believing that no one ever should be able to find fault with me. I thought it was okay to keep the mindset that I am actually incapable of offending anyone. Seeing this in myself was no easy thing to see! What else did I see? Cover your eyes, or one of them, because it’s painful!

I can be obsessed why myself.

I am proud.
I am often full of my own ego.

(Did writing these in different sized font make it easier on your heart to read???)

Perhaps it’s not in superficial ways that my ego jumps out, but when I take a look inward, that’s what I see. But thank God that I am not left to wallow in the murk and muck of who I sometimes am–that old man that pops up when I get distracted or off track in life. What freedom fell when I finally looked into that dark place and saw myself for who I am!

My quiet time reading served up additional comfort from Psalm 37, which wonderfully sings of the ways God takes care of us!

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. Psalm 37:3-9

Nabal goes on to act foolishly in the story found in 1 Samuel 25. He refuses to serve David, who sends his messengers to ask to feast together with this man who had plenty. Instead of generously extending his hand, Nabal refuses altogether, assuming that David could be anybody, a runaway slave even. Nabal behaves in an entitled way. Why should he share with a man he did not know, he asks. David is livid when he hears this message and prepares to level not only Nabal but every male living or serving in the man’s house. Then comes Abigail, a woman gifted with discernment, to the rescue! She pleads with David to not take vengeance into his own hands. David listens! Not only does he not proceed with his plan, the plan he could have easily felt entitled to enact, but he submits voluntarily to Abigail and listens to her. A man listening to a woman in this time is truly astonishing, not to mention the difference between their stations–a celebrated military leader and the wife of a rich landowner. That’s a whole lesson in itself.

The call to give up rights.

When we ask the Lord to rule our lives, we are called to deny ourselves many things. Culturally, I might have the right to do certain things, but I must continually ask whether Christ affirms this right. Ask Betty might tell me I have the right to feel angry about a friend suddenly shunning me. But Scripture teaches that I should not only expect this, but should submit even this to Him. That I should not fret, worry, fear, or wallow. Instead, I should ask what lesson He wants me to learn and how I can better love others!

It takes courage.

It takes courage to look into our personal caves, to peer into the darkness and find what is lying there. But that being done shows us so much. When we let the light of Scripture, the light of Christ shine on our worst choices, motives, thoughts, He shows us that rescue, redemption, and restoration are there for the taking!

*BSF or Bible Study Fellowship is a global community of believers from all over the world that meets locally to study Scripture, develop leaders and disciples by teaching how to study and apply Scripture. I’d love to help you get involved if this sounds like something for you! https://www.mybsf.org/

 

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