[This is Real]
The Age of Entitlement
*Please read 1 Corinthians 9:1-18
“If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (NASB 1 Corinthians 9:11–12).
We live in what many have come to call, “the age of entitlement.” People are passionate about receiving what they feel is owed to them. They believe that they deserve a special kind of treatment because of the color of their skin, social-economic status, age, or sexual orientation. At the heart of this belief is a blind narcissism that thinks the world revolves around that individual; that all of society owes them something.
Entitlement is a huge problem in our culture. Let me clarify what I mean: I am not saying that people shouldn’t feel entitled to equal treatment under the law, or a fair/competitive wage, or not to be discriminated against. There are inalienable rights that every human has. But, many people are out of balance and think that people owe them something simply because of who they are or what they represent. This is what I mean by the term entitlement.
Young people today are often labeled as being entitled. The popular hashtags “#thestruggleisreal” and “#firstworldproblems” epitomize this belief. When a kid gets mad at his parents because they didn’t buy him the right color car he wanted, he’s acting entitled – like they owe him a car in the first place.
But young people aren’t the only ones that feel entitled. Older people feel entitled because they think the world owes them something for all the hard work they did in their younger years. Ethnic minorities and the LGBT community feel entitled because of bad treatment in the past. The examples and illustrations abound.
So how does this idea of entitlement relate to our text? Well, like many topics we’ve already seen in this letter, the same issues that we have today existed in this first century church in the city of Corinth. Just as entitlement exists now, it existed then; and it has impacted how this church views the world. Primarily, this is seen in how they view their founding apostle, Paul.
The Corinthian believers were not impressed with Paul. They didn’t like the way he did things. They felt entitled to have a certain kind of apostle. One that spoke powerfully and dramatically, like the professional rhetoricians common during this time. So in this text, Paul confronts them on the issue of entitlement hoping to provide for them a paradigm shift of their worldview.
You see, Paul knew that he had every right to live as any other apostle – even to receive wages from this church for his evangelistic and discipleship efforts. But he refused to take it, why? Because Paul knew how entitlements work. If he started receiving payment from them, then he would become dependent upon them. And once that happened, they could pressure and manipulate him to be the kind of apostle that they wanted. Paul was avoiding this often-used political scheme. He was not willing to be dependent upon these entitled Corinthians by his own sense of entitlement. Instead, he laid his rights aside so that the gospel would shine even brighter.
There was a time in Paul’s life where he felt a sense of entitlement (Phil 3:4-7), but upon encountering the risen Jesus, his paradigm shifted. In that moment, his view of self as the center of his life’s narrative was radically recalibrated and Jesus took center stage. And Paul’s desire for these Corinthians is that they would have the same paradigmatic experience upon embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is the paradigm shift for Paul: Jesus was more entitled than anyone else in human history, and yet he chose to lay all that down for us. But in the irony and economy of God, after Jesus gave it all, received it all back and more when he rose from the dead and ascended back to the Father. This goes against all human logic and sense of entitlement, which makes it the good news that we need.