Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.

Of late, I have been thinking a lot about the concept of entitlement. The catalyst was a message I heard at my local church. Prior to hearing it, I had not fully appreciated that an attitude of entitlement played a significant (negative) role at some point in the lives of several spiritual giants in the Bible including Abraham and King David.

These days, a common complaint of the baby boom generation (to which I belong) is the pervasive culture of entitlement including, in particular, the millennial cohort. To better understand this issue, I turned to the Oxford Dictionaries for a definition of entitlement. Two stood out: (1) the fact of having a right to something [objective entitlement] and (2) the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment [subjective entitlement].

In the economically advanced west, objective entitlements abound. These would include, for example, those enjoyed by beneficiaries of the Canada Pension Plan or provincial and private healthcare plans. While there are differing views concerning the social and economic merit of such entitlements, there is no denying they are objective rights conferred by institutions on individuals.

By contrast, beliefs and feelings concerning special treatment are subjective entitlements and I (quite often) criticize others who consider themselves deserving of some. As I considered the entitlement issue, I was brought up short by Jesus’s admonition. “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

A “sure fire” way of identifying personal shortcomings is judging others.

From personal experience, I have found that a “sure fire” way of identifying personal shortcomings is judging others (in this case, millennials). By that, I mean there is a strong likelihood that, when I point my finger, the other three are pointing back at me!

When I get honest with myself, I must admit to sometimes feeling a sense of entitlement. For example, when I was active in business, I often felt entitled to business class travel and fancy airport lounges because, well, I was a CEO! By contrast, Jesus, my role model, never exhibited an attitude of entitlement even though he was entitled to one!

Speaking of Jesus, the most profound and exciting entitlement of all is set out in the following biblical passage. “But to all who believed him [Jesus] and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

This right is conferred by the creator of everything and is available to everyone. Since God is all powerful and the very definition of love, His capacity and willingness to honour His promises infinitely exceed the capacity and willingness of any human institution. There is a catch. The right must be “activated” by the beneficiary’s belief that Jesus is who the Bible says He is and the beneficiary’s willingness to trust in Him.

Here are two questions to ponder:

  1. Is my attitude one of entitlement to blessings or gratitude for blessings?
  2. Have I “activated” my right to become a child of God?

Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.