The greatest obstacle preventing Israel from escaping from Egypt and seizing the Promised Land wasn’t Pharaoh and his massive army. It wasn’t the imposing Red Sea. It wasn’t even the walled Canaanite cities.
The greatest obstacle to the fulfillment of God’s promise was the grumbling hearts of God’s people.
The two words in Hebrew that are translated “grumble” are lun and ragan. Lun has the connotation of growling. Ragan has the connotation of whispered rebellion.
When we grumble, we rebel against God’s authority. Our grumbling declares our distrust of God’s sovereign rule over our lives.
God responds, “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me.” Like a parent talking to an ungrateful child, God has heard enough whining, criticizing and fussing. His response to the grumbling generation was 40 years of wandering in the wilderness and refused entrance into the Promised Land. God takes grumbling seriously!
Centuries later, Paul warns a church with a grumbling problem, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” (Philippians 4:14-15).
If entitled phrases like, “Is that all?” or “It’s not fair” or “I deserve” are creeping into your home, the cure is easier than you think. Here are six ways to get started:
- Shift Desires. Jesus is the only one who’s ever been truly entitled. He didn’t deserve to bear our sins on the cross. Yet he chose to give up his own desires, his own comforts, and his own pleasures for our eternal good. As Christians, we are content in what he chooses to give, and what he chooses to withhold. We follow the example of Jesus by choosing to give up what we think we deserve. The Gospel is the cure for an entitled heart. It says, God did provide all you need. Jesus is enough. Anything else you think you need is a cheap, worthless, soul-crushing substitute. Our unfulfilled desires remind us that our true satisfaction has only one source – Jesus!
- Adjust Expectations. Have you ever met anyone with an entitlement attitude who’s happy? No? Me either. It’s impossible to be happy when we are focused on ourselves. The marketing world wants us to believe we will be happy if we get what we want but the truth is that happiness is found in being thankful for the blessings we already have, to rejoice in the grace we possess rather than wishing for things we think we are owed. Yes, there are imbalances in the world, but rather than looking inward, God’s love teaches us to look outward to a lost and hurting world. As members of God’s Kingdom, we are now part of His plan to heal and restore. Our lives become a window into the Kingdom to come when Jesus Christ will rid the world of all injustice.
- Value Work. Instant gratification cements the entitlement mentality. Teach children to work hard to earn what they want. Show children how to spend only what they can afford and discuss need vs want
- Accept Responsibility. Entitled mentalities say, “They made me feel this way” (giving control of our feelings to others); “She needs to apologize before I can let it go” (giving our self-control away); “I couldn’t help it” (giving our responsibility away). There’s a fine line between helping our kids out and aiding bad behavior. Sometimes we should let natural consequences take its proper place. With kindness and love, we must allow them to experience both the positive and negative effects of their actions. If there’s a problem with another child, let them work it out themselves or show them how to use peaceful words instead of drama to deal with confrontation. Teach them how to apologize, forgive and show respect to others.
- Develop a Worldview. When we’re only looking and thinking about ourselves, we can only see what we want. Exposing kids to the less fortunate and the way most of the world really lives deters entitlement. Then we can say to our children with conviction, “Yes, that is all. We don’t need more.”
- Express Gratitude. When we show our children how to notice the blessings of each day, they are much more likely to cultivate gratitude instead of grumbling. Hang a craft paper banner on a wall or fill a window with sticky notes of thanks. Invite your family and anyone who visits to write down one or two ways they are thankful. Leave out a basket of thank you cards to encourage your family to show appreciation. Have everyone keep their own gratitude journal. Declare a “no complaining day.” Dare your family to go all day (or all week or all month) with no complaining. Slip a rubber band on our wrist (or use your watch) and every time you complain, move it to the other wrist. Try to go the whole day without moving your wrist reminder. Celebrate with a special treat when the whole family achieves a full day without complaining.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
Do our children see in us a willingness to freely give as we have freely received or are we focused on earning more and getting more at any cost?
Do our children see us worshipping the Giver of the blessings, or the blessings He has given?
What can you start doing today to combat the “entitlement” attitude in your family?