Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wisdom for Living - Lesson 1

Wisdom for Living – a study of Proverbs

Many people think that what's written in the Bible has mostly to do with getting people into heaven - getting right with God, saving their eternal souls. It does have to do with that, of course, but not mostly. It is equally concerned with living on this earth. Eugene Peterson says: "Wisdom" is the biblical term for the 'on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven' every day living. Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves.” It has virtually nothing to do with information or knowledge. A college degree is no certification of wisdom – nor is it primarily concerned with keeping us out of moral mud puddles, although it does have a profound moral effect on us.

Wisdom has to do with handling our money, conducting our sexual lives, going to work, exercising leadership, using words well, treating family and friends kindly, eating and drinking healthily, cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes toward others that make for peace. The way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do… nothing we do should take precedence over God.. that’s wisdom!  Proverbs concentrates on these concerns more than any other book in the Bible. Attention is given to the here and now of our lives.

Bible Commentary: Proverb — a trite maxim; a similitude; a parable. The Hebrew word thus rendered (mashal) has a wide signification. It comes from a root meaning “to be like,” “parable
Proverbs, Book of — a collection of moral and philosophical maxims of a wide range of subjects presented in a poetic form.
origin of this book, “it is probable that Solomon gathered these statements from his own human experience  
divided into three parts: (1.) Consisting of ch. 1–9, which contain an exhibition of wisdom as the highest good.
(2.) Consisting of ch. 10–24.
(3.) Containing proverbs of Solomon “which the men of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, collected” (ch. 25–29).
These are followed by two supplements, (1) “The words of Agur” (ch. 30); and (2) “The words of king Lemuel” (ch. 31).
Solomon is said to have written three thousand proverbs, and those contained in this book may be a selection from these (1 Kings 4:32). In the New Testament there are thirty-five direct quotations from this book or allusions to it.
The Proverbs
The book is best outlined as a series of collections:
I.     Wisdom poems (1:1-9:18)
II.     Wisdom sayings (10:1-22:16)
III.     Admonitions (22:17-24:22)
IV.     ‘Sayings of the wise’ (24:23-34)
V.     ‘Proverbs of Solomon’: wisdom sayings (25:1-29:27)
VI.     ‘The words of Agur’ (30:1-33)
VII.     ‘The words of Lemuel’ (31:1-9)
VIII.     Poem on the ideal wife (31:10-31)
Chaps. 1-9, subtitled ‘The Proverbs of Solomon, Son of David, King of Israel,’ are basically wisdom poems on various topics: the value of wisdom, evils the wise person should avoid, the discourses of personified wisdom, etc. These chapters open with a statement of purpose (1:1-6) and contain fully developed poems (e.g., 2:1-22, on the benefits of wisdom), in contrast to the disparate and separate sayings that dominate the rest of the book. The subtitle ‘The Proverbs of Solomon’ in 10:1 introduces a collection of sayings in parallelism (chaps. 10-15) and synonymous parallelism (chaps. 16-22). These are sayings drawn from experience and traditional teachings that usually inculcate a moral value (honesty, diligence, self-control, etc.).

Wisdom requires that we know what information to keep to ourselves, and what information to share!

Proverbs 1-3

 Summary. The book immediately states the writer’s purpose and theme: he teaches the wisdom so the reader can develop a disciplined life, “doing what is right and just and fair” (1:1–7). Speaking as a father, he warns against those who will try to detour his sons into sin (vv. 8–19) and warns against ignoring his advice (vv. 20–33). He carefully identifies the nature of wisdom (2:1–10) and lists its many benefits (2:11–3:16). Wisdom is foundational to existence, providing perspective on life (vv. 17–35). So wisdom, personified as a lovely woman, is to be desired above all things (4:1–27).
Key verse. 2:4: Respect for God is the source of true wisdom.
Personal application. It is wise as well as right to commit yourself to doing “what is right and just and fair” (1:3).
Wisdom (1:2–3). The Heb. root that expresses the basic concept of wisdom (h-k-m) occurs over 300 times in the O.T. It focuses our attention on a person’s basic approach to life, the values and commitments which find expression in his or her lifestyle. In the O.T., wisdom is essentially the choice to be godly. The wise person is sensitive to God, submits to Him, and applies God’s guidelines when making daily choices.
The person who is wise will “find the knowledge of God,” because God is the source of wisdom (2:5–6). God provides needed perspective, so that we “will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path” (2:9).
“Wisdom literature” in the O.T., which includes Prov., Ecc., Job, and Ps. 19, 37, 104, 107, 147, and 148, describes the way of life to be chosen by the believer. For more on the nature of wisdom in the O.T., 2 Chronicles 1. For distinctive N.T. insights into wisdom, 1 Corinthians 1, James 3.
“Fear of the Lord” (1:7). This verse calls the fear of the Lord “the beginning of knowledge.”
But why is fear of God the “beginning” or starting point? Because the conviction that God is—and is to be honored—the only door that opens to true wisdom. Only when all is oriented to the Lord can true moral knowledge or wisdom be gained.
“Valuable things” (1:13). The foolish sinner is motivated to do wrong by mere things, which he or she sees as having great value. People who value things more than God’s approval find ill–gotten gain “takes away the lives of those who get it” (v. 19).
Relationship with God (chap. 3). The basic wisdom issues touched on in Proverbs have to do with personal relationship with God. Only if we know Him and respond to Him will the rest of the counsel in this book produce fruit.
This chapter mentions several basic principles of relationship with God. We are to trust the Lord completely, and acknowledge Him in all we do (vv. 5–6, trust, » Psalms 18-21). We are to rely on God’s Word rather than our human wisdom (vv. 7–8). We are to honor God by giving generously (vv. 9–10). And we are to remember when hard times come that God loves us still and see our most difficult experiences as the disciplinary love of a Father who cares for us deeply.
“Disciplines” (3:11–12). In the O.T. discipline is typically painful, but it is not primarily punishment. The key Heb. word for discipline is yasar, which means to chastise, or to instruct. It does involve correction, but its goal is to make a positive contribution to a person’s training in righteousness. As these verses emphasize, yasar is exercised in a family setting. The emotion conveyed is not anger or disgust, but love and active concern. A father disciplines his child to help her grow into a praiseworthy adult. Just so God disciplines those who trust Him to help us grow toward moral and spiritual maturity. Bible history and proverbs both demonstrate that at times punishment, a “rod of correction” (Prov. 29:15) is the best way to show love when people will not respond to verbal guidance. The important thing to remember, as these verses emphasize, is that when God disciplines it is because of, and with a continuing attitude of, love.
New Living Translation (NLT)
The Purpose of Proverbs
1 These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.
Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline,
    to help them understand the insights of the wise.
Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives,
    to help them do what is right, just, and fair.
These proverbs will give insight to the simple,
    knowledge and discernment to the young.
Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.
    Let those with understanding receive guidance
by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
A Father’s Exhortation: Acquire Wisdom
My child,[a] listen when your father corrects you.
    Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
What you learn from them will crown you with grace
    and be a chain of honor around your neck.
10 My child, if sinners entice you,
    turn your back on them!
11 They may say, “Come and join us.
    Let’s hide and kill someone!
    Just for fun, let’s ambush the innocent!
12 Let’s swallow them alive, like the grave[b];
    let’s swallow them whole, like those who go down to the pit of death.
13 Think of the great things we’ll get!
    We’ll fill our houses with all the stuff we take.
14 Come, throw in your lot with us;
    we’ll all share the loot.”
15 My child, don’t go along with them!
    Stay far away from their paths.
16 They rush to commit evil deeds.
    They hurry to commit murder.
17 If a bird sees a trap being set,
    it knows to stay away.
18 But these people set an ambush for themselves;
    they are trying to get themselves killed.
19 Such is the fate of all who are greedy for money;
    it robs them of life.
Wisdom Shouts in the Streets
20 Wisdom shouts in the streets.
    She cries out in the public square.
21 She calls to the crowds along the main street,
    to those gathered in front of the city gate:
22 “How long, you simpletons,
    will you insist on being simpleminded?
How long will you mockers relish your mocking?
    How long will you fools hate knowledge?
23 Come and listen to my counsel.
I’ll share my heart with you
    and make you wise.
24 “I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come.
    I reached out to you, but you paid no attention.
25 You ignored my advice
    and rejected the correction I offered.
26 So I will laugh when you are in trouble!
    I will mock you when disaster overtakes you—
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
    when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone,
    and anguish and distress overwhelm you.
28 “When they cry for help, I will not answer.
    Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me.
29 For they hated knowledge
    and chose not to fear the Lord.
30 They rejected my advice
    and paid no attention when I corrected them.
31 Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way,
    choking on their own schemes.
32 For simpletons turn away from me—to death.
    Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.
33 But all who listen to me will live in peace,
    untroubled by fear of harm.”
The Benefits of Wisdom
2 My child,[c] listen to what I say,
    and treasure my commands.
Tune your ears to wisdom,
    and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
    and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
    seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
    and you will gain knowledge of God.
For the Lord grants wisdom!
    From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.
    He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
He guards the paths of the just
    and protects those who are faithful to him.
Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,
    and you will find the right way to go.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
    and knowledge will fill you with joy.
11 Wise choices will watch over you.
    Understanding will keep you safe.
12 Wisdom will save you from evil people,
    from those whose words are twisted.
13 These men turn from the right way
    to walk down dark paths.
14 They take pleasure in doing wrong,
    and they enjoy the twisted ways of evil.
15 Their actions are crooked,
    and their ways are wrong.
16 Wisdom will save you from the immoral woman,
    from the seductive words of the promiscuous woman.
17 She has abandoned her husband
    and ignores the covenant she made before God.
18 Entering her house leads to death;
    it is the road to the grave.[d]
19 The man who visits her is doomed.
    He will never reach the paths of life.
20 Follow the steps of good men instead,
    and stay on the paths of the righteous.
21 For only the godly will live in the land,
    and those with integrity will remain in it.
22 But the wicked will be removed from the land,
    and the treacherous will be uprooted.
Trusting in the Lord
3 My child,[e] never forget the things I have taught you.
    Store my commands in your heart.
If you do this, you will live many years,
    and your life will be satisfying.
Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
    Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
    Write them deep within your heart.
Then you will find favor with both God and people,
    and you will earn a good reputation.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.
Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
    Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
    and strength for your bones.
Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the best part of everything you produce.
10 Then he will fill your barns with grain,
    and your vats will overflow with good wine.
11 My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
12 For the Lord corrects those he loves,
    just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.[f]
13 Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
    the one who gains understanding.
14 For wisdom is more profitable than silver,
    and her wages are better than gold.
15 Wisdom is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 She offers you long life in her right hand,
    and riches and honor in her left.
17 She will guide you down delightful paths;
    all her ways are satisfying.
18 Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
    happy are those who hold her tightly.
19 By wisdom the Lord founded the earth;
    by understanding he created the heavens.
20 By his knowledge the deep fountains of the earth burst forth,
    and the dew settles beneath the night sky.
21 My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment.
    Hang on to them,
22 for they will refresh your soul.
    They are like jewels on a necklace.
23 They keep you safe on your way,
    and your feet will not stumble.
24 You can go to bed without fear;
    you will lie down and sleep soundly.
25 You need not be afraid of sudden disaster
    or the destruction that comes upon the wicked,
26 for the Lord is your security.
    He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.
27 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it
    when it’s in your power to help them.
28 If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say,
    “Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.”
29 Don’t plot harm against your neighbor,
    for those who live nearby trust you.
30 Don’t pick a fight without reason,
    when no one has done you harm.
31 Don’t envy violent people
    or copy their ways.
32 Such wicked people are detestable to the Lord,
    but he offers his friendship to the godly.
33 The Lord curses the house of the wicked,
    but he blesses the home of the upright.
34 The Lord mocks the mockers
    but is gracious to the humble.[g]
35 The wise inherit honor,
    but fools are put to shame!

Wisdom for Living – a study of Proverbs

1.    What is the importance of wisdom?  The beginning of wisdom is ____________.
2.    Why would someone lack wisdom?
3.    Share a time where you practiced wisdom that you knew came directly from God and not your own knowledge.  What did you do differently that you would have historically done?
4.    Share some of the nuggets of truth/ wisdom that you find in the first 3 chapters of Proverbs.  Go through 1 chapter at a time.
5.    What are the promises found in these Proverbs if we embrace and act on wisdom especially the wisdom found in the statements in the passages tonight?


[1]Easton, M.G.: Easton's Bible Dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996, c1897
[2]Richards, Lawrence O.: The Bible Readers Companion. electronic ed. Wheaton : Victor Books, 1991; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996, S. 387
c circa (Lat.), about, approximately
bc before Christ
cf confer (Lat.), compare
MT Massoretic text
evv English versions
OT Old Testament
rsv Revised Standard Version : NT, 1946; OT, 1952; Common Bible, 1973
op.cit opere citato (Lat.), in the work cited above
[3]Wood, D. R. W.: New Bible Dictionary. InterVarsity Press, 1996, c1982, c1962, S. 977

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Telling Ourselves the Truth # 9 & 10: Lesson 19 audio

Telling Ourselves the Truth

Audio is available... portions of the material are from "The Lies We Believe" by Dr. Chris Therman


road runner cartoon

“When the one Great Scorer comes to write against your name, he marks not that you won or lost, but how you played the game.” ~Grantland Rice

Truth #9:   The virtue lies in the struggle, not the prize.

1 Cor 9:24-27         
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?(AM) Run(AN) in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown(AO) that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.(AP) 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly;(AQ) I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.(AR) 27 No, I strike a blow to my body(AS) and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.(AT)

Truth  - We need the struggle
Consider the butterfly in the Cocoon

Ecclesiastes 1

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”(C) What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?(D)
All things are wearisome,

Truth – We Must Accept the Struggle

And with that.. realize that our struggle may not necessarily end with the goal/ reward that we have in mind.

“the virtue is always in our efforts, not in what they yield”

When we don’t get the speedy results we want our mindset is: “No virtue in the effort, just the prize”.  What is your mindset?

- Is winning the only important thing to you?
Vince Lombardi: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the ONLY thing.”

Teddy Roosevelt: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat; who strives valiantly; who errs and may fail again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; but who actually continues and strives to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasm, and great devotion”.

Truth – Sometimes losing is actually winning
"If you do your best at something, you end up a winner even if the scoreboard says you've lost".

WRITE IT DOWN & MEMORIZE IT “The virtue lies in the struggle, not the prize”.

“It’s how you play the game that really matters. Give it your best shot!”

Truth #10
Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.” ~Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Remember one of life’s most embarrassing moments......

Truth #10 – Life is difficult

Dr. M. Scott Peck in “The Road Less Traveled” says… this is one of the greatest truths and one that few people come to grips with.

Belief: Life shouldn’t be difficult

The point is: whether in small ways, large ways, or in-between ways, life is difficult. ~Dr. Chris Thurman

Consider the Apostle Paul ...
2 Corinthians 11
Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about.(AM) 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I.(AN) Are they Israelites? So am I.(AO) Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I.(AP) 23 Are they servants of Christ?(AQ) (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder,(AR) been in prison more frequently,(AS) been flogged more severely,(AT) and been exposed to death again and again.(AU) 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes(AV) minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods,(AW) once I was pelted with stones,(AX) three times I was shipwrecked,(AY) I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews,(AZ) in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city,(BA) in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.(BB) 27 I have labored and toiled(BC) and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food;(BD) I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.(BE) 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?(BF) Who is led into sin,(BG) and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast(BH) of the things that show my weakness.(

Telling Ourselves the Truth # 9 & 10
Group Work

1.    What benefits have you found in the struggle?

2.    Discuss ways we can ‘fail forward’, ‘fall forward’?

3.    How does not believing the truth that Life is Difficult affect our lives?

4.    Write down some of the problems you have had in your life that have made it difficult (even those that seem small or petty). They can be problems others caused you, you caused, or no one caused or all three.
What do you see from your list? Lots of major problems, mostly minor with a big one or two or? No major problems yet? How has life been to you so far?
 Discuss/ share one of them with the group.

Homework… for each problem you have written on your list, ask yourself, Have I accepted that I had/ have this problem yet? For any ‘no’, write in your journal why you think that is the case.  Then with each, follow the outline/ script on the handout you are being given.

Truth # 7 & 8 - Robbie Sedgeman

Telling Yourself the Truth #7 & 8

You reap what you sow
“Who is man’s chief enemy?  Each man is his own.”  Anacharsis
You reap what you sow is a principal that you can’t violate.  Although at times, it does seem that we ‘get away’ with certain behaviors.  Like the last time you saw a police car by the side of the road and slowed down, hoping the officer wouldn’t pull you over for speeding – and he didn’t.  Maybe you didn’t receive the negative consequence of a speeding ticket, but that instance still had consequences.  Everything we do leaves its impression on character.  Perhaps you made a ‘small adjustment’ to the charitable contributions on your taxes.  You weren’t questioned by the IRS, but your conscience was hardened a little that day by not being truthful on your return.  God warns us in 1 Timothy 1:19 to “hold on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to faith.”

Each day, the small choices we make and the actions we take all have a part in shaping our character.  Often, a good person is brought down not by a major event, but by small changes taking place over a period of time.  The next thing you know, you are doing things you would not have dreamed of doing five years ago.  That one big meal you ate last week did not add 30 pounds to your frame, but perhaps you can remember the time when you decided a little desert would not hurt.  And that little desert turned into a regular meal-time treat that, a year later, added up to more than a few pounds.  Just like a person doesn’t become an alcoholic overnight.  It is through a long-term series of choices to drink that the alcoholic becomes controlled rather than the controller.  It is for good reason that, in Proverbs 3:21-23, God warns us to be careful about our choices:  “My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.  Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.”

I think it’s important to note that the reaping and sowing principal is not about karma.  Many eastern religions embrace the concept of karma, which says that good will come to you if you do good and evil will come to you if you do evil. The modern New Age movement and many of its spokespeople today are advocates of the principal of karma.  They claim that you can control your life and what happens to you by thinking good thoughts and ‘willing’ prosperity into your life.  They teach people that if they act and think good enough, they will receive good things.  And that if they are not receiving good things, they must be doing something wrong.  God clearly states this not to be the case.  There is evil in this world and it will be present in our lives in some form simply by the fact that we live in a world dominated by Satan.  The Old Testament book of Job testifies to that.  And Jeremiah 12:1b asks, ‘Why does the way of the wicked prosper?  Why do all the faithless live at ease?”

The answer to that question is, in part, that the motivation for the Godly to do good is because it is God’s will.  Psalm 34:14 says “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”  We are to act kindly regardless of how that act is received or what we receive in return.  One problem with karma is that the motivation behind doing good is to ensure that good will come into your life.  Although the words and attitudes of the New Age advocates often claim goodness for its own sake, when you dig a little deeper, you will find that ultimately the goal is to receive good in their own lives.

Another problem with doing good as defined by the New Age movement is that good is determined by each individual.  There is no standard by which to define good.  That is the philosophy which has given us sayings like ‘if it feels good, do it.’  It is a chaotic and dangerous world where each person has their own definition of good and bad.  But God says that He alone is good, so He alone can define that which is good.  Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”  Those who want to make their own rules are saying ‘there is no God.  Their goal is to life live according to their own rules, thereby making themselves God.

Nature Abhors a Vacuum
Have you heard the expression ‘nature abhors a vacuum’?  If you have identified a behavior or attitude that you would like to change, remember that you need to replace the negative behaviors or attitudes with positive ones.  For example, if you want to stop watching tv, decide ahead of time what you will do instead.  You could read or exercise or call friends or play solitaire.  If you don’t have a plan ahead of time, something will fill that time – and it may not be the positive activities that you would like.  The same applies with our attitudes and thoughts.  If you are determined to replace negative thinking, plan ahead of time what you could think about in its place.  You could have scripture verses handy to read and memorize or you could call a friend and engage your mind in conversation rather than in negativity or self-pity. 

The key is persistence and consistency.  A seed doesn’t grow into a plant overnight.  It takes time and effort and care.  As stated earlier, you may not have seen the negative consequences of your actions until a much later date.  The same is true of the positive changes you are making.  It could be that the problems you are facing now are not the result of your circumstances or some monumental event.  They could be the result of lifestyle choices over a significant period of time.  But it is possible to turn it around.  You may not see the benefits of the changes at first.  Hang in there – one day you will look back and be able to see how much you’ve changed! 

Remember that the best way to determine what you will be like in ten years is to examine what you are thinking and doing now.  If you continue to believe in and think upon lies, in ten years your life could be a chaotic mess.  But the good news is that the reverse is true:  if you start believing in the truth now, in ten years, you will reap the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical harvest of the abundance of God’s blessings!! 

“Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.”  1 Timothy 4:15

You are not entitled to anything
Think about that – you are not entitled to anything.  My guess is that initially you agree with that statement.  But if you dig a little deeper, you will find some things you believe you are entitled to having.  Our culture definitely promotes an entitlement attitude with ads aimed at telling us the good things we ‘deserve’ to buy.  You have probably heard some of the following sentiments, or ones similar to them:
        “I’ve done so much for her, she owes me.”
        “I’ve been working here for 25 years – they should show me a little respect.”
        “I deserve good service from that waitress.”
“This has been such a bad day, I deserve that chocolate cake.”
        “I took care of you all your life, son, now it’s your turn to take care of me.”
        “I opened the door for them.  The least they could have done was say ‘thank you.’”

Our country was even founded on the premise that we are all entitled to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’  I believe that is an honorable premise and I am proud to live in a country trying to make that possible.  But even so, it is not our inherent right as humans.  To the contrary, all we have is a gift from God.  “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:21b.  As much as I’d like to think I am entitled to fresh drinking water and daily food and even the air I breathe, the fact remains that I am not.

Demanding Versus Desiring
What I can do is desire, or want, those things.  But there is a big difference between wanting something and believing we are entitled to it.  And that difference can greatly impact our attitude toward life and others.  Let’s take an example:  assume that I am the perfect wife and I meet all my husband’s needs, but in two different scenarios.  The first scenario is that I believe I am entitled to my husband’s reciprocation.  I think  my husband owes me for my good efforts – that he must shower me with love and respect because that’s what I am giving him.  If he doesn’t do so, I am going to develop resentment and a negative attitude toward him, believing he is not fulfilling his end of the bargain.  Even if he does shower me with kindness, I am not going to appreciate his love and care because I think it is rightfully mine in the first place.

For the second scenario, I am still the perfect wife, but I do not feel entitled to reciprocation by my husband.  I do, however, want it.  If my husband responds in loving kindness, I am grateful and appreciative, understanding that he does not have to do so, but is choosing to.  If he does not respond in kindness, I may be hurt and disappointed, but I am not angry or bitter because I understand I am not entitled to his acting kindly toward me.

In the first scenario, entitlement leads to resentment, bitterness and lack of appreciation.  In fact, the best that comes out of that scenario is that I don’t appreciate what my husband does for me.  As we have discussed in other lessons, bitterness, unforgiveness and resentment are emotional toxins to our souls and bodies.  The belief of entitlement breeds those toxins and impacts every area of our lives. 

In the second scenario, however, desire instead of entitlement leads to selflessness, understanding and appreciation of all I receive.  I may experience hurt and disappointment.  Those are painful emotions and can be difficult to work through, but we can carry them.  But if you want a sure formula for misery, a feeling of entitlement is it!

 It’s all about me!
Another aspect of entitlement to consider is how it leads down a one-way path of ‘me’ – of what I am owed and deserve.  We may be kind to others, but it is not out of love and care.  It is so that we receive something in return.  It may be love or respect or a little help around the house, but the bottom line is that we are striving to get what we want.  It does not leave room for consideration of others and their well-being.  It feeds and is fueled by our selfish nature.  But God counsels us otherwise in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

Simply ask for it
At a practical level, feeling entitled to something is not the best approach for receiving it.  Most people have a sense when you are demanding a certain response from them.  Our human nature is such that we tend to rebel and not give them the expected response.  If fact, the person could become bitter and resentful of your manipulation of circumstances.  So, ultimately, the best chance to get what you want is simply to ask the other person for what you desire.  It takes some courage to be honest and vulnerable and ask for what you want.  And you need to be prepared for whatever their response may be.  You may end up being disappointed and hurt.  But there is also the chance that you will experience the joy of someone providing for your needs simply because they love you!  That is the joy of the Lord.

Here’s an exercise that will help you start to identify and turn from feelings of entitlement.   Whenever you start to feel angry or irritated because you did not get what you believe you deserve, write or say to yourself “I am not entitled to X, but it is OK to want it.”  For example, “I am not entitled to good service in this restaurant, but it is OK to want it.”  Or “I am not entitled to a good-paying job, but it is fine to want it.”  This simple process of exploring your feelings on entitlement and proclaiming the truth can start you on the road to a life of gratefulness and appreciation.

In closing, consider this sentiment by George Bernard Shaw:  This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
The question to answer is this:  which would you rather be?!?

1.    What is a positive action you have taken which has reaped positive benefits? Or what is a negative action you have taken which has reaped negative benefits?
2.    What are you sowing today and what can you expect to reap from it?
3.    Share a behavior you would like to change.  What can you replace that behavior with (i.e., going for a walk instead of watching t.v.)?
4.    What have you felt entitled to?
5.    Can you identify a time when your sense of entitlement produced a harvest of bitterness and unforgiveness or in some other way negatively impacted a relationship?
6.    Do you have a hard time asking for what you want?  Is there something you would like from someone now but are hesitant to ask for it?