I have some musing on the subject of entitlement and mercy: simply put, God doesn’t entitle us to stuff even as His children. He treats as true children and we must respond as true children. His covenant with us guarantees the availability of stuff, but not entitlement to stuff.
Most people get mercy and grace mixed up because of the prevailing definition of grace as “unmerited favor.” The idea is that grace is given, thus the “unmerited part.” The “favor” part is more complex, and most people miss the meaning.
In reality grace is more about enabling power. The spiritual capacity to accomplish what we cannot do in human strength and wisdom, God’s way of getting us to be spiritual people. Note that I didn’t say, “More spiritual.” God is interested is us becoming spiritual people, living SpiritFirst, and being dominated by spirit; He is not trying add spiritual stuff onto our lives like an after-market gadget or gravy on our mashed tators.
The grace gifts, or charismata, of the Spirit are examples: we can do things that are purely spiritual capacities, void of human talent, disposition, and ability. Grace is beyond us but invades our lives as we surrender to God’s enabling power. Spiritual gifts are really grace capacities: charis is the word for grace, and grace enabled capacities, as all things spiritual, function as God gives and God operates in and through us.
In this sense, grace moves us above the Law because grace enables us to please God. We can be what His wants because of what He gives us in spiritual power and ability. We can do what He wants done because we function in spiritual power and capacity. Grace isn’t about standing but being and doing. In this way, Paul speaks of his ministry and life’s work as a “grace” and testifies that “I am what I am by the grace of God.” (This is the truest definition of humility.)
Anyway, mercy is more about time. God gives us time to repent that we don’t deserve or merit. He is just and holy, and we could go to hell forever the first time we miss it; mercy keeps the door open for us to repent. In this time of mercy, we may choose to sin more, and usually do! This helps us understand why a loving God allows sinfulness to abound and wicked men to continue in wickedness far beyond the time we would allow it. Mercy.
So, there is no entitlement for anyone, even God’s true children. Entitlement presupposes that grace and mercy have nothing to do with what we are supposed to get. Entitlement says we deserve things we haven’t earned, things we should receive “just because.” Entitlement is a lie hatched in hell contrary to the economy of heaven both spiritually and naturally.
The presuppositions of entitlement assume a limitation instead of an abundance. The thinking: there is a limited pie and everyone is entitled to an equal piece of the pie. One lie produces the next. Of course, the truth produces another truth.
This functions as political and social envy when people perceive that someone has more than they do, and contributes to the idea that “justice” demands equal portions. “If you have a lot, you have some of mine. That’s not fair!”
This lie is destructive. Entitlement envy is destructive, distractive, and distressing. The emotional effort pushes toward getting what is mine more than produces what is available in an abundant world. Entitlement envy wastes creativity on figuring out how to get someone else’s instead of enduring the process of producing something with what is available. Entitlement envy invests emotion in fighting “them,” the problem being “them” whoever that might be.
The political spirit functions upon the lie of entitlement when we look to leaders to right the wrong, leaders strong enough to fight the “them” conspiracy that is taking an unequal share. We cry out for “fairness” and “justice” when neither of them will be realized by entitlement. Entitlement leads to greater injustice and fairness. We don’t need greater entitlement; we need greater opportunity.
Nothing in the kingdom of God works this way, yet some terribly misguided people assume that this the reality God wants! It cannot represent God’s strategies for us because God is a God of abundance, not limitation. God is the God of unlimited opportunity. Nothing could be more just and fair than that!
Note the words of Hebrews: we can come to Jesus who intercedes for us to receive mercy and gracious help when we need it most. [See Hebrews 4:16.] We need mercy all the time because mercy is time to receive, grow, produce, mature, and live. Mercy is opportunity. But the mercy comes with “the grace to help.” Mercy is a mess without the enabling grace to help! Mercy would simply be unmerciful without the grace to help because we would find opportunity empty of increase and expansion, change and improvement.
God welcomes us into His kingdom when we are born again. His kingdom is spiritual, so we must be born of spirit to see it and enter it so we can learn to function in it. God doesn’t entitle us. He welcomes us into a kingdom of abundance and makes great enabling grace available in His land of opportunity.
That is the way God thinks. In His kingdom everybody is different, unique, individual, and loved. In His kingdom, people have different portions at different times. The kingdom of heaven isn’t the ultimate entitlement environment where everybody disappears into equality, and God finally makes it all right by making sure we receive an equal entitlement! Laughable thought.
Jesus makes it abundantly clear that some will have greater authority based upon what they did with enabled opportunity, and those that buried the opportunity end up with nothing because they are not functioning in His enabling and making the most of His opportunities. The parables of the talents is but one example of this. The Bible makes it clear that some people in the kingdom have more than others in terms of honor, grace, opportunity, calling, assignment, gifts, and wisdom.
This occurs, or this is the reality of the kingdom, because God doesn’t function with entitlement motivations but with mercy motivations. In the kingdom, sitting around waiting for your fair share will get you into big trouble! Moaning because someone else has something you want, assuming they must have something that is yours, will get you into big trouble! Waiting for God’s favor, defined in entitlement terms, will leave old and empty because you assume that entitlement means God should be getting you what you want instead of you being enabled by God to get God what He wants!
So, the trap is set by entitlement thinking. If I say something other than, “it isn’t fair that poor people are poor,” I am attacked by entitlement thinkers as “unjust, unChristlike, bigoted, etc” by those who mistaken think that anytime someone is poor it means somebody else has what belongs to those poor people. Of course, I do not think that poor people are poor because someone else has what belongs to them! That would be defined as “theft,” taking what does not belong to you.
God has a lot of poor people in His kingdom of opportunity and enabling. He wants them all to prosper! He does not plan to give them all an equal share of kingdom entitlement, however, but to make great enabling and opportunity available to them. The inequality that results is not the result of injustice. The kingdom of heaven isn’t the utopia of entitlement! God creates us with equal opportunity but not equal circumstances. God graces us with enabling power but not with equal capacity, ability, and gifts. In the kingdom the inequality is purposeful because God creates us to uniquely fit into the place He has prepared for us, a place of belonging and producing, that we must pursue through the impossible process of transformation of redemption. It is impossible, so He came and made it possible.
The trap of entitlement thinking has invaded church-anity with political envy. To function properly in kingdom, we must move away from the lie that motivates us by comparison, contrast, and competition. We must reject the lie of limited supply and embrace the liberty of abundance. [The presuppositions of the US Constitution came from the celebration of the individual, protecting the individual from the state to preserve the individual’s opportunity of mercy and grace. Yeah, really!]
Don’t receive, believe, and live spirit of the world lies! And, most certainly don’t try to bring the lie into the kingdom! In the kingdom we receive mercy and grace to help in the nick of time from the King who is actively involved in the lives of His kingdom citizens. Kingdom intercession is not our opportunity to demand our entitlements but our authority to release what heaven wants into the earth.
Today, you make me smile Dr. Don. I love you and Ruthanne, alot! K