Here at the onset of 2015, the Lord has freshly impressed upon me the dangers of having an entitlement mentality. You know, the idea that we are owed something or that we deserve better than what we have. I’m face to face with my own propensity to believe I DESERVE comforts, things, honor, etc. The problem is I don’t deserve anything better than what I have, in fact, truth be told, because of my rebellion against God, all I really deserve is hell. Anything I receive one degree better than hell should be considered a huge blessing. So, I’m turning to the Sermon on the Mount again to gain perspective and help extinguish my entitlement mentality.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus deals with the issue of entitlements. He addresses five areas that people generally feel entitled. One of His main points is that the citizens of His kingdom are not actually entitled to anything. Instead, they are called to give up their rights and trust Him as their provider and vindicator. This is incredibly challenging, especially in our society, where we have such an emphasis on individual liberties and personal rights.
The language can be a bit confusing for a person living in the 21st century because Jesus uses examples from His day that His hearers understood. Let’s unpack His examples and identify what He was communicating.
Mat 5:38-42 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
1) “AN EYE FOR AN EYE?” – This deals with the issue of Retaliation. When we are wronged, most feel entitled to strike back, instead Jesus gave us an alternate perspective.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
The phrase “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” originally comes from Exodus 21:24 & Leviticus 24:20. The intent of Eye for an Eye, or tooth for a tooth, was that it would set a limit of recompense for someone who had suffered injury. The point was to prohibit an individual from exceeding the wrong they had suffered in retaliation. It was a restrictive commandment to be used by the courts to prevent escalation between parties who were in a feud.
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees not only allowed it to be applied in a personal way, but they required men to bring retribution upon one who had wronged them. Rather than seeing it as a concession they saw it as a command.
Jesus on the other hand teaches us not to retaliate against someone who has wronged us but instead serve them and bless them. Is your flesh burning yet?
2) “TURN THE OTHER CHEEK” – This deals with the issue of your Reputation. Oh how we love to stick up for ourselves. Jesus had a different idea.
“If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
When Jesus said, “turn the other cheek” He was specific talking about the issue of personal insults. Just as a “slap in the face” is an American idiom that transcends cultures and time. The same is true of “turn the other cheek.” It was a figure of speech that meant don’t defend or vindicate yourself when someone insults, humiliates or degrades you.
3) “WHOEVER TAKES YOUR TUNIC, LET HIM ALSO HAVE YOUR CLOAK” – This deals with the issue of your Property. Nobody likes people to mess with their stuff. Once again Jesus flips the script on us.
“And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
The Tunic was an inner garment. The Cloak was an outer garment that actually doubled as a blanket at night. Exodus 22:26-27 describes the cloak as a basic human need. Jesus says, give it away. The point is don’t exalt the value of property over the value of a person.
4) “DON’T ONLY GO ONE MILE, GO TWO” – This deals with the issue of your Time. Time is a commodity that everyone would like to have more of. Look how Jesus calls us to offer our time to others, even those we wouldn’t prefer to be with.
“If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles”
Jesus was specifically addressing a custom where a Roman soldier could command people to carry their goods from town to town. The Roman law said a person only had to go one mile with a soldier. Jesus says if they make you go one mile, add another mile…go two. In doing so you serve and love the other by giving your time to them.
5) “GIVE TO THE ONE WHO ASKS YOU” – This deals with the issue of your Money. Here Jesus hits at the greed in our hearts.
“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
The issue at hand isn’t the wisdom of giving in certain situations (drug addict, professional beggar), the issue is the heart posture of liberality, generosity and the giving up of rights. It’s about being available to have a free heart to give. Freely receive, freely give.
In general Jesus’ call is for us to give up our rights, we don’t have the right to retaliate when wronged, or the right to prop up our reputation. We don’t have rights to our possessions, time or money. Ultimately, He owns us and all that we have, including ourselves, is His. He will care for us and provide for us. In light of this He asks us to trust His leadership and provision rather than demanding our own. Oh, how I want to be free from an entitlement mentality and demanding my own ways.